Category Archives: The Conde Nast Publications

“Good Wearing-Relationships”

This is a pattern I have long admired:

Good wearing-relationships - Forquet pattern

It is one of those patterns which is always in my mind when I am looking at or for fabric. Twice I have opened it up to survey its pieces and construction, and twice I have decided against it. To be fair, both times of rejection have been because of “not enough fabric”, but other factors have weighed in as well: 1) the collar is too “’70s-looking” and would have to be recut; 2) the skirt is A-line, a look I am just not excited about right now; and 3) the top part of the dress is “bloused” instead of darted, which adds more bulk to the waist than I can handle at this stage of my life.  However, with that said, I still love the look.   I love the strong contrasts of color, divided and punctuated with the wide white belt. I love the styling with the shoes matching the red bodice, the tidy neck scarf, the big ball earrings, and the classy bracelet. It is a memorable look. And – it served as inspiration for me as I recently paired two vintage pieces of contrasting Moygashel linen.

GGood wearing-relationships

When I purchased these fabrics – at different times – I had no intention of using them together.   But then, one day I put them together and liked what I saw. I knew from Vogue 2708 (above), that a white belt would add the necessary foil to those two strong colors. Further encouragement came happily from a two-piece dress in the June/July 1962 issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine using similar Moygashel linens:

"They're naturals - and we're not just talking about the cotton and linen fibers in the clothes on these pages , but the good wearing-relationships we have with them.  We like them; they like us - our 1962 shapes, science-bred colors, the places we go, our washing machines..."  The two-piece dress featured here was made from Moygashel linen,

From the description:  “They’re naturals – and we’re not just talking about the cotton and [Moygashel] linen fibers in the clothes on these pages , but the good wearing-relationships we have with them. We like them; they like us – our 1962 shapes, science-bred colors, the places we go, our washing machines…”

Now all I had to do was decide upon a pattern which would work with the one yard I had of the “bittersweet” yellow linen for the bodice and the one-and-one-quarter yards I had of the “pottery” blue linen for the skirt. (Fortunately, these linens are 45”wide, meaning that they were manufactured after the early-1960s.)

Initially I thought I would just go with View D of this current Vogue pattern:

Good wearing-relationships - new vogue pattern

But after having recently read Linda Przybyszewski‘s The Lost Art of Dress and being influenced by the discussion therein of the importance of fashion emphasizing one’s face, I thought I wanted a more interesting neckline. Off to my collection of vintage patterns I went, emerging with this one:

The neckline dips down to a slightly curved V, with a center seam.

The neckline dips down to a slightly curved V, with a center seam.

And the back is equally as pretty!

And the back is equally as pretty!

Now I had a plan. I would use the narrow skirt from the current Vogue pattern and the bodice from the vintage Vogue pattern, except that I would make it sleeveless. I had to work to line up the darts on the bodice and the skirt, moving them hither and yon several times. And then I had to deal with the positioning of the bust darts, always an issue for me with vintage patterns. The apices of the darts are always too high for me. (I’m sure it has much to do with the foundation garments which women wore in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s.) Simply moving the apices lower does not always work, as then I seem to have too much fullness above the bust and across the shoulders.   Of course, this is where making a muslin (toile) comes to the rescue. In this case, my first muslin had so many changes to it, that I had to transfer all my final markings to a new muslin. I also decided to underline the linen with silk organza and use true couture techniques to complete this dress.

Here is one side of the front from my first muslin.  I still had to make changes on the second muslin, but better on muslin than on the fashion fabric!

Here is one side of the front from my first muslin. I still had to make changes on the second muslin, but better on muslin than on the fashion fabric!

As I work on this dress I am in concurrence with further commentary from the 1962 VPB: speaking of “Naturals for our Time” (linens and cottons), the editors say, “Most of all, we want the real-life way they look – effortless, inspired by structure rather than detail [my emphasis], and naturally appealing now.” Actually, there is one important detail which will add to the “good wearing-relationship” I will have with this dress – but I’ll save that for my next post…

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Filed under couture construction, Linen, Moygashel linen, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, underlinings, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns

Fashion Past, Fashion Present

Many reviews of Linda Przbyszewski’s book The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish have been written. Two of the most recent ones are by Stephani Miller of Threads Magazine, and by Joy Landeira in the quarterly newsletter (Summer 2014) of the American Sewing Guild, Notions (available to members only). Both of these, plus many others give an excellent overview of the subject of the book. For those of you abroad and others who may not have been exposed to this book, here in a nutshell is the narrative: From 1900 – 1960, American women’s interest in fashion was shaped to a great degree by many professionals in the fields of Home Economics, Retailing, and Art. Following certain concepts espoused by these “Dress Doctors”, as the author calls them, average American women embraced style, grace, appropriateness, and practicality in their dress, making them paragons of American fashion.

Lost Art of Dress - cover

I found the book completely fascinating to read, learning much about the cultural and social history of this country during those six decades. Although the book is scholarly in its research, documentation, and overview, Linda is an engaging writer, infusing humor frequently, adding pointed commentary throughout, and, finally, extrapolating meaning from the “lessons” taught by the Dress Doctors for present seekers of style. As a dressmaker and frequent user of vintage patterns, I read the book looking for specific references, which would apply to my sewing and fashion sense, and to help me answer the question “Just exactly why do I find the fashions from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s so captivating?” To say that I found much to savor is, indeed, an understatement.  However, certain “Aha” moments stood out for me, so that is what I will try to cover in my remarks here.

1) To be successful and enduring, fashion should emphasize one’s face. When I look at vintage patterns, so many of them have details at the neckline, or unusual and flattering collars, or necklines cut gracefully to frame the face. This seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Fashion should bring attention to one’s face – and therefore, one’s person – so that YOU are remembered rather than your attire (although the proper fashions can help you be remembered at your best). Jewelry is one way to help emphasize a face, but, of course, it should not overpower your countenance. Prior to 1965, wearing hats was commonplace, adding another point of emphasis to the face. Now we are not so lucky, save for some very special occasions.

2) Black is fine to wear for evening, but think again for day-time wear. While I am not naïve enough to think that black is going to leave the wardrobes of American women (after all, what is more classic than the Little Black Dress for after-five?), most of us would do well to consider adding more color to our fashion sewing and wearing. Color is a powerful enhancer to complexions (of all hues) and moods.

3) Older women were once considered at the apex of elegance and style. Women and girls younger than 30 were expected to dress in a more youthful manner that mimicked their elders, rather than the other way around! (Isn’t it interesting that 30 was considered the age at which women were expected to assume a more polished appearance?)   Vogue Pattern Book Magazine contained the occasional feature on young girls and college girls, and Vogue even had a pattern series called Young Fashionables. But the majority of their patterns were for the 30 – and – older crowd, showcasing models and fashions which were demure but elegant, feminine but refined.

Here is one "Young Fashionable" pattern, to illustrate the type of style designed for the younger than thirty age group.

Here is one “Young Fashionable” pattern, to illustrate the type of style designed for the younger-than-30 age group.

This page from the October/November 1955 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine shows many of the ingredients of a polished look, the norm among American women at that time.

This page from the October/November 1955 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine shows many of the ingredients of a polished look, the norm among American women at that time.

Even fashion illustration included all the elements of a polished look.  (From the same VPB magazine as above.)

Even fashion illustration included all the elements of a polished look. (From the same VPB magazine as above.)

4) The Dress Doctors were not only concerned with fashion, but also with how fashion could influence the rest of one’s life. First and foremost, one should buy, or sew one’s own attire, which is appropriate for the life one leads. Buying on impulse is rarely a good idea if the item you are buying has no use in your weekly or monthly calendar. Further, if you find a style or look which works for you, repeat it – easily accomplished by those of us who sew. And those of us who sew know that tweaking a pattern, adding or subtracting a detail, and choosing diverse fabrics can make any pattern look new. Hooray for us!

5) A final point – and it is about many women’s favorite fashion accessory — shoes. According to Linda Przbyszewski, shoes have taken on much more significance than they once did – and should. Shoes should never be the focal point of one’s outfit. They should be chosen to enhance the overall look and to be functional for the occasion for which you are dressing. Shoes used to be just one of the accessories adding to the complete outfit, along with gloves, hats, scarves, handbags, jewelry, and coats. As gloves and hats and coat “wardrobes” have receded from the recipe for a “fashionable look”, shoes have filled that gap for many of us.

The last chapter of the book is devoted to the “demise” of the Dress Doctors in the 1960s and ‘70s. The emphasis on “youth”, starting in the ‘60s, and the women’s liberation movement in the 1970s changed mainstream fashion dramatically. Not addressed in the book is the continuance of some of the standards, established by the Dress Doctors, by the pattern companies in these two decades. Although my experience is mostly with Vogue patterns, I continue to be inspired by many of the fashions, Designer and otherwise, featured in patterns during these two decades. Once again home dressmakers were at an advantage – and continue to be.

The author leaves the reader on a positive note, stressing lessons for all of us to be learned from the wisdom of the Dress Doctors, and crediting the home sewing movement NOW for the beginning of a return to standards and style in the art of dress. I look at this  as a responsibility.  How about you?

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Filed under Book reviews, Little Black Dress, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns

The Long and Mysterious Journey of Sandhurst 121

When the piece of linen I had purchased arrived in the mail, I was not sure what to expect. I had bought it with the hope that it was, indeed, a piece of Moygashel linen, but I had nothing to go on except an educated hunch. I knew it was an early piece of fabric, as its width was 35”, a common width for pre-1960’s dress-goods. I liked the design in the photo from which I made my decision, although it was not a colorway to which I normally gravitate. Upon opening the package, I found the only identifying mark on the fabric to be this tag:

Gottshalk's in Fresno, California obviously sold fine fabrics.

Gottschalk’s in Fresno, California obviously sold fine fabrics.

This short length of fabric had been on the remnant table, and, being too good of a bargain to pass by, some home dressmaker in California (USA) scooped it up with all good intentions of making something out of it someday. It must have lived in a dark drawer somewhere, carefully buffered from stains and yellowing. It didn’t even have much of a crease in it. And so, after many years in dormancy, it arrived at my home in Pennsylvania. I knew immediately that it was a Moygashel linen. I could tell by the hand of the fabric, the unique, slightly funky design, and by its amazing survival virtually wrinkle-free.

Sandhurst 121

As I mentioned in a former post, my only dilemma was the scant yardage, combined with the narrow width. So, I stuck it in my fabric closet, to think about another day. One thing nagged at me, however. I really, really wanted to know what year it was from.

Over the past three years or so, I have had some luck in finding copies of old and older (1950-1980) Vogue Pattern Book Magazines. They are fascinating, and treasure troves of mid-century fashion as it relates to home sewing. I have tried to get a good cross-section of magazines from those three decades. One issue, which I tried a couple of times to get – and did not (on eBay) – finally became available to me. I loved the suit on the cover, and those mid-fifties styles are just so chic, even though most Vogue patterns from that time period were unprinted, and therefore, very difficult to use. (By 1957, Vogue was starting to produce many of their patterns in printed and perforated format.)

This is the February/March 1955 issue.

This is the February/March 1955 issue.

Perhaps you can see where I am going with this? I was looking through this particular issue once again in May of this year, and low and behold, a full-page ad for Moygashel linen clearly pictured “my” linen as one of their “new crop”. The colorway was different, but Moygashel was known for producing their fabrics “all in many colors or color combinations.” Maybe a lot of people wouldn’t get so excited about such a discovery, but I was ecstatic! Now I knew, for certain, that the linen I had purchased made its debut in early 1955. (I would be turning 5 years old a little later that year!) I even had a name for it now – Sandhurst 121. I suddenly very much wanted to sew this linen, this Summer!

There is my linen in the upper left hand corner of the full-page advertisement.

There is my linen in the upper left hand corner of the full-page advertisement.

By now, many of you know that I determined to make a sheath dress out of this scant yardage of fabric, and in order to do so, I had to reconfigure my sheath dress pattern to include a back yoke. Here’s the fabric layout, which hopefully will show how sectioning the back enabled me to fit the pattern on the available fabric:

The fabric is shown 35" flat on my cutting table.  The muslin pattern piece for the front of the dress is on the right, and the two shortened back pieces are lined up smack against each other on the left.  The yoke pieces then fit above the dress front.  I did not need facings, as I lined the entire dress in a light weight linen/cotton blend, and finished the neck and armholes all by hand.

The fabric is shown 35″ flat on my cutting table. The muslin pattern piece for the front of the dress is on the right, and the two shortened back pieces are lined up smack against each other on the left. The yoke pieces then fit on the fabric  above the dress front. I did not need facings, as I lined the entire dress in a light weight linen/cotton blend, and finished the neck and armholes all by hand.  I had to face the hem as I did not have enough fabric to do a self hem!

Many of you also know that fortune shone her happy face again on this project when I found three orange vintage buttons, which I knew would help make a back yoke far more interesting. I relied on a Vogue pattern from 1957, which has a back yoke to help me with this reconfigure.

This card of buttons cost 2 cents originally!  They seem to mimic the small orange explosions on the dress fabric.

This card of buttons cost 2 cents originally! They seem to mimic the small orange explosions on the dress fabric.  They may actually be even earlier than the fabric.

The yoke on this dress uses 4 buttons.  I only had three, but their large size still makes the proportions work well.

The yoke on this dress uses 4 buttons. I only had three, but their large size still makes the proportions work well.

A close-up of the back of the dress.

A close-up of the back of the dress.  I made bound buttonholes – very 1950-ish!

And then, another classic 1950s’ design detail worked right into this dress: I would need to move the zipper to the side in order for the back yoke to look correct. Now I will be the first to tell you that a side zipper is not as convenient as a back zipper, but it is a small sacrifice when everything else is enhanced by this placement.   After these obeisances to ‘50s’ style, I slipped right into 2014 with a bright orange, newly made belt, a widened jewel neckline, slightly cut-in shoulders, and a back slit to enhance comfort. I like to choose the best from the ‘50s, but I really don’t want to look like the 1950s.

I sent new orange linen to Pat Mahoney of Pat's Custom Belts and Buttons  and this lovely belt came back to me in the mail.

I sent new orange linen to Pat Mahoney of Pat’s Custom Belts and Buttons and this lovely belt came back to me in the mail.

Cool and summery-looking, don't you think?

Cool and summery-looking, don’t you think?

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Sandhurst 121

Not every dress can have a story, nor should it. But this fabric, which began its life in Ireland, no doubt entered this country through New York City, ordered by a store in Fresno, California, purchased and squirreled away for decades by persons unknown – has now found a starring role in my wardrobe almost 60 years later. Sewing is just so much fun!

 

 

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, hand-sewn zippers, Linen, Love of sewing, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, side-placed zippers, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, Unprinted patterns from the 1950s, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

Defying the passage of years?

Throughout the 1950s, copyright dates appeared on all Vogue patterns (or, at least that has been my observation). Copyright dates appear on some of the patterns from 1960-‘62, but after that, they are non-existent. It is always a thrill when I find a reference to, or picture of, a pattern, which I own or am working on, in one of The Conde Nast Publications, Inc. magazines or other printed materials. It is one sure way to date an otherwise undated vintage Vogue pattern.

So – you can imagine my delight when a small, 8-page Vogue Pattern Fashion News from February 1965 – which I recently purchased – featured the Emilio Pucci dress and jacket which has been my sewing focus for the past several weeks.

On the cover of this small "flyer", which was available for pick-up wherever Vogue patterns were sold, is the reference to fashion from Florence - as in Pucci's Florence!

On the cover of this small “flyer”, which was available for pick-up wherever Vogue patterns were sold, is the reference to fashion from Florence – as in Pucci’s Florence!

And here is the sketch of "my" Pucci pattern.

And here is the sketch of “my” Pucci pattern.

The brief caption gives an apt description of the Pucci pattern:

Pucci pattern - fashion news caption

And – I did indeed wear this dress (and jacket) to an “important party” just last weekend – to a beautiful wedding in Center City Philadelphia.

 

(This photo was not taken at the wedding...)

(This photo was not taken at the wedding…)

I was working diligently all last week to finish the jacket. Here are the details on what was transpiring in my sewing room:

First, I can tell you I was delighted that the pieced sleeve linings worked just as I had hoped they would. Here is the jacket turned inside out, showing the piecing on the lower sleeves.

Defyng the passage of years

Inside out, a back view.

Inside out, a back view.

And here is a photo inside the jacket, looking towards one sleeve, which shows that the piecing does not show! Hurray. I honestly don’t think anyone seeing the jacket slung over a chair is ever going to suspect that the Pucci lining fabric does not extend all the way down the sleeves.

Defying the passage of years

I also had the idea to add a narrow, bias, flat piping to the edge of the lining down the fronts and around the neckline. I found a turquoise silk in my fabric closet which seemed to keep with my “theme” of the turquoise under-stitching on the interior of the dress. This is one of those “dressmaker details” which just makes me happy.

Defying the passage of years

Another thing that makes me happy are the buttons! I picked out specific scraps of the silk, which featured designs I wanted to emphasize on the buttons. I sent them off to Pat Mahoney in Lodi, California, who returned them made into 1¼ inch buttons – flat and beautiful!

This is the button I chose for the top of the jacket.

This is the button I chose for the top of the jacket.  Notice the slot-seam-buttonhole.

The middle button - I couldn't resist featuring the Emilio signature on this one.

The middle button – I couldn’t resist featuring the Emilio signature on this one.

And the lower button.

And the lower button.

I decided to have two extra buttons made in case I wanted to add them to the sleeves.   And – add them, I did. I like the extra subtle  attention they bring to the jacket. (Another dressmaker detail – specifically, an added embellishment.)

Defying the passage of years

Defying the passage of years

I had the jacket finished when I suddenly remembered that a Vogue label had come with the pattern. Of course, I was delighted to sew it in place.

Defying the passage of years

Defying the passage of years

Defying the passage of years
 Defyng the passage of years

Defying the passage of years

There is something about using a pattern from 1965 that seems quite amazing to me. Yes, it is simple math, but think about this: 1965 was 49 years ago!   Is anyone who sees me in this dress and jacket going to think that it is sewn from a 49-year-old pattern? Somehow I doubt it. I think my secret is safe.

 

 

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Dressmaker details, sewing in silk, Slot-seam buttonholes, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

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

Thoughts on Fabric

One theme I often see in New Year’s sewing resolutions is an emphasis on sewing from one’s “stash” rather than purchasing more new fabric.  I don’t know too many serious sewers who don’t harbor at least a little guilt about all the fabric they have squirreled away (the word “stash” actually does imply something put away, usually in a secretive place!).  I used to feel a lot more guilt about all my fabric than I do now, and here’s why.  First, I don’t consider my fabric a “stash” of anything.  I look at it as a collection, to be used, admired, and taken care of like any valuable thing.  And second, I believe having a selection/collection of beautiful and inspirational fabric adds to the creative process of sewing.

As with the selection and collection of any worthwhile genre, it’s usually best to buy the best you can afford.   There used to be much more stated emphasis on “quality” in fabric than there is now.   It is so interesting to me that fabric manufacturers used to advertise their products by name, obviously with great pride in their newest line of designs.  Some of the manufacturers were almost household names, with tag lines such as  “A fabric you can lean on – that’s Klopman”.  Woolens were known by their manufacturer’s name, such as Forstman and Anglo, to mention just two.  The same was true for cottons, linens, silks, and synthetics. So many of the full-page advertisements in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s were from fabric manufacturers (whereas now there are virtually none).  Here is a quick look at some from each of those decades:

Moygashel Linen advertised heavily in VPB Magazine during that 30-year span of time.  Here is an ad from the inside front cover of the December/January 1953/54 issue:

Thoughts on Fabric - 54

“The first name in linen… The last word in quality”

Moygashel was also one of those fabric companies which supplied labels with purchases of their linens.  Here is a string of labels, which came with a recent purchase I made of vintage Moygashel:

Thoughts on Fabric - Moygashel w: tag

Many new synthetic fabrics were being developed in the post-war era, as evidenced by the many ads from manufacturers of these yard goods.  Here is an ad for acetate, made by the Celanese Corporation of America.  It appeared in the February/March 1957 issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

Thoughts on Fabric - 57

In the same issue was this full page ad for Wamsutta cotton prints.  Now known primarily for sheets, Wamsutta once had the tagline “it has to be WAMSUTTA!” which many a home sewer knew as a sign of quality.

Thoughts on Fabric - 57-2

European fabrics also found their place in VPB.  Here is an ad from February/March 1964 for Boussac screen-printed cottons.  “A collection of rich designer fabrics used by the haute couture of the world.”

Thoughts on Fabric - 64

I want to show you something else in that same issue.  Although there was not a dedicated ad for American Silk, Vogue pattern #6105 was sewn in American Silk, as stated in its accompanying caption.

How I would love to find a piece of this silk tucked away in some drawer!

How I would love to find a piece of this silk tucked away in some drawer!

Twelve years later, in 1976, I attended a fashion show featuring the various dress silks made by this company for the home sewing market, another example of the effort put into marketing by specific fabric manufacturers.

By 1972, the look of VPB Magazine was becoming more sophisticated, but those full-page fabric ads were still abundant.  Here is an ad in the October/November issue devoted to Qiana, a nylon made by DuPont:

Thoughts on Fabric - 72

And – Crompton is velvet appeared a few pages further in the same issue:

Thoughts on Fabric - 72-2

In September/October 1976, Diane von Furstenberg was featured on the cover, and Ernest Einiger had a full-page color ad for “The Great American Wools”.

Thoughts on Fabric - 76-3

In the same issue, Britex Fabrics in San Francisco offered a buy-by-mail offer for Ultrasuede, the “it” fabric of the decade!

Thoughts on Fabric - 76-2

I can really only think of a few current fabric lines that still retain the distinction of being “known” by their names: Liberty, Pendleton, and Linton Tweeds come to mind.  (Linton Direct advertises in the current VPB magazine, but it is a small column ad, not a full-page “look at me” type of statement.) Then, of course, there are designer fabrics, but the manufacturers of these “name” goods are generally not listed.  For the most part, unless you ask, when you are buying yard goods, the names of the manufacturers are virtually unknown.  It is really kind of a shame, as there are so many exquisite fabrics of the highest quality still being woven in certain parts of the world.  These fabrics (and others, some vintage) make it difficult to say “no” to the opportunity to add to one’s fabric collection.  Here are two such fabrics I could not resist:

This is a linen and cotton blend I purchased from Mood Fabrics a while ago.  It is patiently waiting to be cut and sewn . . .

This is a loosely woven linen and cotton blend I purchased from Mood Fabrics a while ago. It is patiently waiting to be cut and sewn . . .

This is a vintage linen, newly acquired by me.  Although there is nothing printedon the selvedge, I believe it is a Moygashel linen from the 1950s.

This is a vintage linen, newly acquired by me. Although there is nothing printed on the selvedge, I believe it is a Moygashel linen from the 1950s.  I plan to make a sheath dress from this fabric sometime during the Summer of 2014.

William Blake notably said “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”  I must confess I never knew what that meant until I applied it, somewhat sheepishly,  to collecting fabrics.  It seems the more various and beautiful fabrics I can look at and choose from, the more I am able to determine the perfect pattern with which to pair them.  If I own the fabric already, so much the better!  Sometimes the fabric dictates the sort of garment I should make and sometimes I have a pattern which leads me to my (excessive?) fabric collection, where I can admire anew and oftentimes choose a long-before purchased length of the perfect silk, linen, cotton, or wool.  It is a back and forth process, one filled with visual and tactile components, demanding – and developing – sewing wisdom.  It is one of the reasons I love to sew.

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Filed under Liberty cotton, Linen, Love of sewing, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, woolens

In Pursuit of My Very Own Classic Cardigan (aka Chanel) Jacket

As I eagerly anticipate the Classic French Jacket class I will be taking with Susan Khalje in June, there are several things I am doing to get ready for it.  First, of course, is doing my homework.  That includes selecting the pattern I want to use and making the muslin.  I am sticking with the old stand-by Vogue pattern #7975 (which Susan recommends), as I really do want the classic princess-seamed cardigan look that has evolved from its original “boxy” styling.

Chanel jacket pattern

The view in the lower righthand corner is the version I anticipate starting with.

I’ve prepared my thread-traced muslin pieces, as seen here –

Chanel jacket muslin

And now those pieces are sewn together as well.  We (the members of the class) will be shopping for fabric and trim(s) on the first day of class, so what I end up with is still to de determined.  Am I looking for a particular color?  Yes, sort of, but who knows what wool will entice me – other than probably the most expensive one!

Having classic “Chanel” on my mind has made me think about how enduring this style jacket has been over so many decades.  From looking through some of my Vogue Pattern Book Magazines from the 1950s and 1960s, it is obvious that this is one fashion that is always in Vogue (pardon the pun).  The October/November 1957 issue stated “The Chanel look of the easy jacket is in the news in both suits and ensembles.  Box jackets often have cropped sleeves to show cuff-linked shirt sleeves.”  Here is how that statement is llustrated:

The sketch in jade shows a "best-selling" pattern, newly available printed and perforated.

The sketch in jade shows a “best-selling” pattern, newly available printed and perforated.

Here is the opposing page to the previous illustration - more on the "Chanel look."

Here is the opposing page to the previous illustration – more on the “Chanel look.”

Shades of Chanel are obvious in this style from the August/September 1960 issue, with the statement:  “[T]he most versatile suit ever – the checked, straight jacket is buttonless and bias-trimmed…”

This suit definitely shows shades of Chanel!

This suit definitely shows shades of Chanel!  I like the suit much better than the hairstyle.

Two years later, the August/September issue included a classic Chanel-look suit in its wardrobe for Vogue’s fictional character, Mrs. Exeter.  Called “the suit of the year”, it is described as “. . . very Chanel, with its easy cardigan airs; its dark bands of braid on pale rough tweed; the silk blouse with its own flip and tier bow.  The slim skirt has a low bit of flare.”

This is the most classic Chanel image I found from the 1960s in my copies if VPB.

This is the most classic Chanel image I found from the 1960s in my copies if VPB.

The very next issue in 1962 featured a classic Chanel look on its cover.  The accompanying caption states:  “Take a clean-lined suit design (shades of Chanel) and make it shimmer:  a springy white suit wool scored with gold metallic and red braid . . .”

Chanel jacket images #9

That same issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine gave away this “secret” in a feature entitled VPB’s Boutigue Corner:  Couturier Flourishes:  “The secret of the suit jacket and the overblouse that hang beautifully is apt to be a “Chanel” chain.  A finishing touch by couturiers, the chain is tacked near the hemline as a weight.”

The topic figure shows the "Chanel" chain fastened to a hemline.

The topic figure shows the “Chanel” chain fastened to a hemline.

Ordering information for such chains was included in the same issue.  However, I know for a fact that these types of chains could be purchased in fabric stores, as I still have one (in its original –albeit tattered – packaging) that I purchased in the late ‘60s!

This "vintage" chain still looks new!

This “vintage” chain still looks new!

The back of the packeage shows the copyright date, 1966, and includes instructions on attaching the chain.

The back of the package shows the copyright date, 1966, and includes instructions on attaching the chain. 

Finally, an article in the February/March 1963 issue of the magazine gave some of that age-old advice on “pattern selection that can visually help to minimize your figure problem.”  The advice given “if you tend to be bosomy” seems like it could be good advice for just about every figure problem (or problem figure, depending on your point of view) as it states “In suits, the boxy Chanel-type jackets are your best bet…”

If you can get past this awful illustration, you can read the accompanying text about Chanel-type jackets!

If you can get past this awful illustration, you can read the accompanying text about Chanel-type jackets!

Gosh, I think Chanel-type jackets are just about perfect for everyone.  How else would this classic style have endured so beautifully for so long?

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Filed under Chanel-type jackets, couture construction, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns, woolens

Sewing SMART for 2013

The word “smart” has lots of different meanings.  My desktop Webster’s lists 21 different connotations of this short, very effective word.  I particularly like two of the ways this word was used when I was growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s:  those  would be meanings #5: “neat or trim in appearance, as a person or garment”, and #6:  “socially elegant; sophisticated or fashionable: the smart crowd”.  With these definitions in mind, I looked for and quickly found some very pertinent examples of these meanings in two Vogue Pattern Book Magazines from 1953 and 1954:

The February/March issue of Vogue pattern Book Magazine 1954 gives the reader ideas for a "smart look all through the day, now and through spring."

The February/March issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine 1954 gives the reader ideas for a “smart look all through the day, now and through spring.”

The VPB magazine from October/November 1953 featured "10 smart, new high fashion  Vogue Couturier Designs."

The VPB magazine from October/November 1953 featured “10 smart, new high fashion Vogue Couturier Designs.”

I love this caption from the same issue:  fashions with " a minimum number of pieces to sew and fit ... maximum smartness."

I love this caption from the same issue: fashions with ” a minimum number of pieces to sew and fit … maximum smartness.”

Well, in thinking about some of my sewing goals and aspirations for 2013, I kept coming back to this word – SMART – and decided it would be very useful to use as a  guideline, with each letter of the word reminding me of some of what I hope to accomplish.   SO …

is for SKILLS.  This year I am concentrating on learning new ones, practicing and perfecting ones that I have and taking advantage of at least two classes to help me develop my skills as a dressmaker.  So far, I am enrolled in Craftsy’s “Sewing with Silks: The Liberty Blouse” on-line course (not started yet), and I will be spending a week in Baltimore with Susan Khalje for The Classic French Jacket Class.  Perhaps other classes will wiggle their way into the year as well!

M is for MARKING AND MEASURING my progress and accomplishments, my mistakes (hopefully not too many!), and my plans and intentions.  This is, of course, where “Fifty Dresses” comes in.  Writing this blog helps me focus more on the process than I would normally – and that’s both instructive and rewarding.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you who follow along, make comments, give me encouragement, and share your sewing insights and ideas through your own blogs or other online presence. Thinking, reading and writing about sewing is almost as much fun as sewing itself.

A is for ART.  Sewing is so much more than a “hobby” or a way to build a wardrobe (albeit slowly!).  It really is an art form, and the more I sew, the more I realize and appreciate this fact.  Some of my creations will no doubt be like simple sketches – quick and easy to make and even easier to throw on for a trip to the grocery store –  while one or two others perhaps will rise closer to “masterpiece” level (I can dream) – made with finest fabrics and specialized techniques, intended for special occasions.  Good art should be taken seriously and seriously enjoyed, don’t you think?

R is for REALISTIC, as in having realistic goals of what I can and cannot accomplish in a set amount of time.   This is the part I have trouble with.   I always think I can sew faster than I can.  Although I am sure I will always plan more than I can possibly accomplish, I am going to try to set more realistic goals (keeping a separate, working list of intended projects to help me focus) in the context of what I know will be a busy year in other aspects of my life.

T is for TIMELESS.  This may be my favorite part of the acronym.  Timeless is the look that I am always striving for in the clothing I make.  Using vintage patterns for the most part allows me to choose styles that really have stood the test of time – and which often have a restrained classicism to them that suits my sensibility.

Sketches in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine from October/November 1956 show styles which look very au courant, from the clothing to the hair to the shoes and accessories.  I'd like to be that lady in red!

Sketches in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine from October/November 1956 show styles which look very au courant, from the clothing to the hair to the shoes and accessories. I’d like to be that lady in red!

How stylish are these looks from the same magazine?

How stylish are these looks from the same magazine?

And a box-jacket suit is always in vogue.

And a box-jacket suit is always in vogue.

It’s fun to see current color and style trends, which harken back to 40, 50, or 60 years ago.  Then to make them, using vintage patterns, with newfound construction knowledge, in some of the beautiful fabrics available today, is the best of many worlds. Not only SMART, but lucky, too, in 2013!

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Filed under The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns

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

Who is Mrs. Exeter?

And the more important question is – Can she sew?  Yes, she can – and she does!  But first, let me tell you who she is – or actually who she was.  She was a fictional character – a “woman of a certain age” – who started appearing in The Conde Nast Publications’ Vogue magazine in 1949 (as best as I can determine).  She was the focus of a regular style column, which was meant to appeal to older fashionable women –  with the emphasis most definitely  on fashionable.   She must have proved to be an appealing figure to readers, because in 1954, the front cover of the October/November issue of Vogue Pattern Book magazine announced:  Introducing Mrs. Exeter patterns.

Top billing for the new feature!

Suddenly Mrs. Exeter had discovered the joy of sewing beautiful, classic fashions for herself.  Obviously, Vogue patterns, which already had its own Couturier line of patterns, and its very popular Designer pattern series, knew that its audience included these “older” women who had the time, the talent, and the inclination to sew beautiful fashionable clothes for themselves. The copy accompanying the sketches and photos clearly played into the idea that Mrs. Exeter was very sure of her fashion sense:

Here we learn about Mrs. Exeter’s “experienced way of knowing the ‘right’ neither-too-young, nor too old fashions for herself…”

She also had color sense, knowing how to play up her features, and showing she was not afraid to branch out from neutrals and basic black.

Yes, red can definitely enhance silver hair!

She sounds like she was a fun grandmother, too, as this sketch attests:

The caption reads: “Mrs. Exeter takes her grandchildren to town for a Saturday movie treat.”

The Mrs. Exeter feature appeared sporadically  throughout the year in the issues of Vogue Pattern Book magazine,  continuing through the decade of the 1950s.  The October/November 1957 issue had this feature:

The reader was instructed to “sew jet buttons on the short, fitted jacket and flap pockets” of the gray suit on the right.

That same issue used a real model for the Mrs. Exeter section:

It seems Mrs. Exeter favored white gloves and classic handbags.

And another real model appeared in the February/March 1958 issue:

I think this Mrs. Exeter looks a bit insipid!

By the fall of 1958, Mrs. Exeter must have been very popular, as this was the cover of the magazine:

10 pages for Mrs. Exeter patterns!

The Mrs. Exeter appearing here suddenly looked a little less grandmotherly:

Now this is a lovely woman!

Again, the accompanying text was very flattering to the expertise of the older woman:

“Mrs. Exeter knows what she likes… how to look right on all occasions.”

And the texts made frequent reference to Mrs. Exeter’s civic and social obligations and interests. One two-page spread showing suits, declared:  “For Mrs. Exeter’s busy calendar of civic and social events, a suit wardrobe is almost a necessity.  Her choices, admirably combining chic, distinction, and flattery – with perhaps a shade more emphasis on flattery.”

She also apparently wore shirtwaist dresses with great aplomb, being careful “to avoid thickness at the waist.”

“For all day, every day, the shirtwaist dress is indispensable…” which could be true for 2012 as well!

The Mrs. Exeter feature continued into the early 1960s, but then succumbed to the burgeoning emphasis on youth, disappearing from the magazine by the mid-‘60s.  Indeed, in 1970, Vogue Pattern Book magazine introduced a new feature, this one called “Miss Vogue” in an obvious appeal to the younger generation.  The description of Miss Vogue?  Well, she must have been raised  by Mrs. Exeter:

“She’s the girl with the fabulously fresh smile.  She loves life.  She has fun.  She is active and her versatility knows no bounds.  …She is a sewing expert…  She loves a good challenge.  She’s got talent.  She’s got finesse…  She’s a winner!”

Although Mrs. Exeter might have been “replaced” by Miss Vogue, there were still plenty of 1970s’-era fashions and patterns, which certainly appealed to “the older woman” as well as a stylish younger one.  One of those patterns is the one I am currently using :

From Vogue’s Designer series, ca 1970.

I have completed the skirt, which incidentally is, to my thinking the perfect “pencil” skirt – as it is narrow, but very comfortable – and it has a shaped, two-part waistband. (I’m an unabashed fan of waistbands!)  I think Mrs. Exeter would approve.  I’ll show you in a future post…

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Filed under The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, Unprinted patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns