Category Archives: vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

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

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

Color Wheel

Pantone’s annual announcement of “the color” of the coming year is always notable.  Last week’s revelation of Radiant Orchid as the newest “it” color caught me a little by surprise.  After emerald green’s reign over 2013, I just was not expecting such a dramatic turn on the color wheel.  But, being a “pink” person, I think I can be persuaded to embrace this violet-y pink, although right now I have no fabric or project planned to do so.  I am actually thinking that this color might suit me better in accessories rather than a full outfit in it.  Handbags and shoes?  Yes, I could get excited about that.

This choice of color made me start to think about predecessors to it, so back I went to my Vogue Pattern Magazines, two from the 1950s and one from the 1960s, to see what I could find.  In December/January of 1953-54, an entire feature focused on The Pleasures of Pink. 

"From bon bon to shocking - from the beach to the ballroom ... pink casts its rosy glow"

“From bon bon to shocking – from the beach to the ballroom … pink casts its rosy glow”

Two ads from the February/March 1957 VPM featured a pink, which is very close to 2014’s radiant orchid.  Who could argue with the statement “You are more beautiful in Silk”?

Here is" Radiant Orchid", mid-century style!

Here is” Radiant Orchid”, mid-century style!

Lowenstein’s ad features “Signature” cottons designed by famous artists.  If you read the caption fully, you will see that the price per yard is listed at “about $1.39”.

And don't you love the hat??

And don’t you love the hat??

December/January of 1960-61 shows two of the suit and blouse patterns in what could definitely be called Radiant Orchid.

Look at that Chanel-type jacket in Pattern #4136.

Look at that Chanel-type jacket in Pattern #4136. 

While 2014 is set to be the year of “Radiant Orchid”, dear old 2013 is just not quite over yet.  Busy December of every year finds me focusing on the colors of  Christmas and the holiday season more than on the current fashionable colors.

Somehow, Christmas just would not be Christmas if I were not scrambling to finish some handmade gifts.   This year is no different, as I conjured up some crazy idea to design and make Christmas-themed potholders as a small addition to the presents I give to some very wonderful ladies who help me in my house (and vacuum many a thread off the floor of my sewing room!)    I dug through my stash of “quilting” cottons and came up with some holiday themed fabric, which I used as my starting point.  Then I paired each fabric with some complementary small prints, and concocted what I hope looks like fancy Christmas balls – except that they are large enough to use on a hot pan!

Color wheel potholders I indulged my love of rickrack, and the most fun part was deciding which color binding and which color rickrack to use to enhance the finished product.

color wheel potholder

I added a small gray “cap” at the top to simulate a Christmas ball hook-holder, and a rick-rack loop for hanging.

color wheel potholder

This is my favorite one…

Coming full circle (pardon the pun) on the color wheel brings me back to radiant orchid – and whether  our holiday celebrations will possibly see any pink hues peeking out between the Christmas reds and greens?  Oh, yes!  Once I get around to cookie-making, I’ll be certain to make  fashionably forward stockings and mittens decorated with sparkly pink sugar!

color wheel

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Filed under Chanel-type jackets, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

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

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

“The Sweetest of All the Colors…”

“… Every woman should have something pink in her wardrobe.”   Christian Dior certainly had distinct thoughts about fashion, and with this statement I concur.  Everyone looks good in pink, especially pale pink (men definitely included), and I suspect pale pink was what Monsieur Dior was thinking when he wrote this in his Little Dictionary of Fashion (First published by Cassell & Co., Ltd., 1954; 2007 edition by Abrams; Copyright Catherine Dior and Jean-Pierre Teto, 2007).   Interestingly, the lining pages of his little book are pale pink, but the divider pages feature a deep, deep raspberry pink as in – – – my newly finished “ladylike” dress!

Here is the "section"page for E from Dior's Fashion Dictionary

Here is the “section”page for E from Dior’s Fashion Dictionary

Dated 1958, this is the pattern I used for my pink dress.

Dated 1958, this is the pattern I used for my pink dress.

The finished dress!

The finished dress!

As I mentioned in my last post, I made this dress using couture construction, which means a lot of hand-sewing.  The more I use this type of construction, the more I like it, but it doesn’t get any faster.

An interior view of some "couture" construction - silk organza underlining, catch-stitched seams, hand-picked zipper.

An interior view of some “couture” construction – silk organza underlining, catch-stitched seams, hand-picked zipper.

However, couture construction gives me a lot of flexibility in changing necklines, which I really appreciate.  That is one of the changes I made to this pattern – widening the neckline to a more flattering appearance for me.

The widened neckline.

The widened neckline.

I also changed the back of the skirt by removing the box pleats and substituting a darted back.

I substituted darted back panels for the "original" box pleats

I substituted darted back panels for the “original” box pleats

The original dress had pockets hidden in side box pleats, but when I narrowed the width of the skirt, I did away with those side pleats.  I still wanted pockets, so I added pocket extensions in order to still hide them in the side seams.  It worked!

A peek at the pocket inside which shows the raspberry silk lining I used for the dress.  I understitiched the pocket edges by hand, which took no time at all and looks so much nicer than machine stitching!

A peek at the pocket inside which also shows the raspberry silk lining I used for the dress. I understitiched the pocket edges by hand, which took no time at all and looks so much nicer than machine stitching!

I added a quarter-inch to the underneath seam on each sleeve, so that each sleeve would have one-half inch extra width to it.  Those ladies in the 1950s must have had skinny arms, as I find sleeve widths on these vintage patterns are often just not quite spacious enough.

I added to the underarm seam - an adjustment which I determined from  my muslin.

I added to the underarm seam – an adjustment which I determined from my muslin.

This was the first time I had made sleeves which are half set-in and half kimono.  This is a look and fit which I love!  In fact, the shoulder fits so well, that my original thought to add an interior sleeve heading was one I decided I did not need.

The one thing I’m not sure I like is the “purchased or novelty belt” as indicated on the pattern.  I think a self-belt, a little wider than the one I show, would be more attractive.  Please comment if you have an opinion.  (I have plenty of fabric left over to make one…)

I am thinking a 2" wide self belt might be more attractive???

I am thinking a 2″ wide self belt might be more attractive???

Before I move on to my next project (to be announced soon), I want to thank Dresses and me for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger award.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

So, in accordance with the “rules” –  I am supposed to share a few facts about myself and nominate some others for the same award, so here goes:

1 – I am told I have a slight Southern accent, surely a remnant of being born and raised in North Carolina.

2 – I do most of my machine sewing on a 1940s’ Singer Featherweight and on my mother’s 1956 “306K” portable Singer.

3 – Autumn is my favorite season.

4 – I can make a very good Pumpkin pie.

5 – I enjoy reading historical fiction.

6 – I can’t sing (as in carry a tune) except for a few simple lullabies and Christmas carols.

Now – to pass on this award:  So many fellow bloggers inspire me every day that it is difficult to single out just a few (especially as many have already received this award!), but here are some worthy recipients:

For always giving me a laugh:  A Dress A Day and The Blue Gardenia.

For always teaching me something I would not have known otherwise:  The Vintage Traveler, Pattern Vault, Two Nerdy History Girls, and the FIDM Museum blog.

For sharing their sewing knowledge, design sense, and beautiful workmanship:  Custom Style, Lilacs and Lace, So Sew Lovely, and Frabjous Couture.

So now – you are IN THE KNOW and  – I am IN THE PINK!

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Filed under couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, kimono sleeves, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens

Saying YES to a Ladylike Dress

What is it exactly that makes a particular dress elicit the description “ladylike”?  Is it primarily the fabric – or the color – or the style – or, as most would suggest, a combination of all these things?  And why, exactly, am I asking this question??

As one who generally is attracted to tailored, usually unfussy “frocks”, I had to answer this question for myself about this pattern, which, although still unfussy, with simple lines, just seems to be such a ladylike look:

Dated 1958, this pattern shows the influence of Christian Dior.

Dated 1958, this pattern shows the influence of Christian Dior.

This is what I’ve decided.  I definitely think you start with the style – or the pattern – and this one has it.  There are four elements which work together to make this a ladylike look: 1) a defined waist, here further delineated with a purchased belt (or, as the pattern calls it, a “novelty” belt); 2) a soft shoulder line, which in this pattern consists of a set-in sleeve on the front bodice, but kimono in the back – very clever; 3) a full skirt, this one with inverted box pleats which soften the fullness to a considerable degree (although not quite enough for me, as I will explain later); 4) three-quarter length sleeves, which are the most flattering for most women, and which provide the perfect foil for bracelets or gloves.

The middle sketch on the back of the envelope shows the kimono sleeve detail on the back of the dress.

The middle sketch on the back of the envelope shows the kimono sleeve detail on the back of the dress.

I’ve had this pattern for well over a year, but it took me a while to pair it with this fabric which I’ve had forever (well, not that long, but probably close to 10 years – which makes it seem like a baby compared to how long I’ve had some of my Moygashel linen!).

I'm not sure the fine twill weave of this fabric is visible here.

I’m not sure the fine twill weave of this fabric is visible here.

This fabric is a very beautiful wool/cotton blend, lightweight, but with a solid hand and very subtle fine twill weave to it.  It’s 60” wide and I bought three yards, so I obviously had plenty of fabric with which to work.  I’m in love with the color, a deep raspberry pink – I just cannot stay away from pinks of any shade.

Knowing that I would be making this dress in knee-length rather than mid-calf made me reconsider the fullness of the skirt.  In thinking about this, I remembered another pattern in my collection, which shows a full skirt in the front and a fitted, plain skirt in the back.

This is an unprinted pattern, which makes working with its pieces  difficult.

This is an unprinted pattern, which makes working with its pieces difficult.

So – I decided to see if I could combine the two patterns to create the same look, but with less fullness.  The second pattern has a three piece back, which obviously would not work with a center back zipper.

Here is the detail of the skirt back.

Here is the detail of the skirt back.

So I decided to combine the side back and center back pattern pieces, add two darts to achieve a similar fit, and add a center back seam to match the seaming in the first pattern.

This is how I fit the two back skirt pieces together to make one piece.  The "triangle" became two narrow darts, which seemed to work better than one wide one.

This is how I fit the two back skirt pieces together to make one piece. The “triangle” became two narrow darts, which seemed to work better than one wide one.

I took a little more fullness out of the front pattern pieces of the first dress and reconfigured the box pleats.  Then, of course, I made a muslin to see if this would all work.  It certainly seems like it will.  The width of the skirt, according to the pattern envelope, was originally supposed to be about 100”.  The width of my muslin skirt is 56” – which means I removed over a yard in the skirt width!  Sometimes things look and hang a bit differently in the fashion fabric as compared to the muslin, so I am proceeding with cautious optimism.

I am making the dress with couture techniques – and I’m ready to do some serious sewing now that I have silk organza hand-basted to all the pattern pieces.

My pile of basted pieces.

My pile of basted pieces.

In sewing, I am always reminded of this quote from Wilhela Cushman:  “Just around the corner in every woman’s mind – is a lovely dress, a wonderful suit, or an entire costume which will make an enchanting new creature of her.”  I do indeed hope this will turn out to be a lovely dress – with enchanting ladylike qualities!

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Filed under couture construction, kimono sleeves, Uncategorized, Unprinted patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, Vogue patterns

Coats of a Certain Length

“. . .  above everything they must be practical.  Practical in color and practical in style.”  This was Christian Dior’s dictum for coats which he wrote in 1954 in The Little Dictionary of Fashion (first published by Cassell & Co., Ltd., republished by Abrahms, 2007, copyright Catherine Dior and Jean-Pierre Teto).    Beginning around this same time, Vogue Patterns began to feature more coats in shorter lengths, with slimmer profiles.  The “tunic coat” and matching skirt debuted in the October/November 1955 issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine, with this description:  “The tunic . . . the newest and most sophisticated of the coats. Its straight lines are highlighted by an even narrower skirt.”

This was the only three-quarter length coat in this feature entitled "The most-wanted new coats."

This was the only three-quarter length coat in this feature entitled “The most-wanted new coats.”

In 1958, a tapered coat-suit was featured in the October/November VPB Magazine, touting its “three-quarter” coat:

Shown in "boxwood green mohair," this coat would be quite stylish in 2013.

Shown in “boxwood green mohair,” this coat would be quite stylish in 2013.

And in the same issue the smock-jacket certainly caught the eye of many a busy mom, with its alluring description:   “”Enjoying suburbia’s natural tranquallizers – grass, trees, sky . . .  Triangular smock-jacket in bright blue-orange-green-red plaid.  Grey flannel slacks – who could live without them?”

This "smock" coat has a pleat in the back for ease of movement for the busy mom.

This “smock” coat has a pleat in the back for ease of movement for the busy mom.

Indeed, who could live without such a comfortable, easy-to-wear, fingertip coat?  As this style morphed into the “Car Coat”, it quickly became ubiquitous, and for good reason.  Here was (and is) a coat, which is a barometer of culture (a term I have borrowed from the little book, 101 Things I Learned in Fashion School, p.32).  An excellent definition is given in The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, 3rd Edition, 2010, page 89:  “Sport or utility coat made hip- to three-quarter length, which is comfortable for driving a car.  First became popular with the station-wagon set in suburbia in 1950s and 1960s [my emphasis] and has become a classic style since then.  Some of the styles in which car coats have been made include BENCHWARMER, DUFFEL COAT, RANCH COAT, MACKINAW JACKET, STADIUM COAT, TOGGLE COAT.”

Coats of certain length -4

This pattern was for a reversible coat, shown here in poplin and sham lamb. The collar can be turned into a hood.  Click on the image to see the details.

By August/September of 1962, VPB Magazine featured a pattern for a Pea Coat, which although not officially a car coat, displayed the same practical length and wearability:

According to Fairchild's Dictionary, Yves Saint Laurent used the classic U.S. Navy peacoat as inspiration for his variation of it in the 1960s.

According to Fairchild’s Dictionary, Yves Saint Laurent used the classic U.S. Navy peacoat as inspiration for his variation of it in the 1960s.

And in the next issue of the 1962 VPB Magazine, in a feature called “The Rangy Western Look for Urban and Suburban Dudes,” front and center was this coat “corralled for suburbanites”:

VPB called this coat a "direct steal from the cowboys's sheepskin original."

VPB called this coat a “direct steal from the cowboys’s sheepskin original.”  (Another wonderful example of a “sheepskin” coat – this one by an English designer – can be seen here, with thanks to my reader, Carol, who led me to the sketch of this fingertip coat.)

Far be it for me to resist such a coat!  Last year I succumbed to this pattern on Etsy, which although not dated, is most certainly from the early ‘60s:

I just may need this pattern someday!

This is a good pattern to have in my collection – I just may need it someday!

Back in the 1970s, I purchased this Christian Dior Designer pattern, with intentions of making the “below the knee” version, although a nice variation of a stadium coat is also featured.  I still love this coat, in both lengths – and someday I hope to finally make good on my intentions!

The buckles around the sleeves add a great look to this coat.

The buckles around the sleeves add a great look to this coat.

However, this coat must be my all-time favorite hip-length style:

I will definitely be doing the color blocking version when I make this coat.

I will definitely be doing the color blocking version when I make this coat.

Purchased last August,  this pattern sometimes keeps me awake at night. With Dior’s words imploring me to be practical, I wonder – – – should I make it in navy and white (as pictured), in black and white, in red and black, in gray and camel, in orange and gray, in ??? and ???

Still to be decided . . .  but you haven’t seen the last of this pattern.

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Filed under car coats, Coats, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns

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