Tag Archives: coats

The Pink Coat Odyssey, Part 2

Sometimes it is the smallest little detail which can make or break a sewing project.  In the case of my pink coat, it was that single loop at the top front edge.

Normally loops are very straightforward, but with this pattern, that was not the case. When I looked ahead at the pattern instructions, this is what I found:

Because the front facing is not a separate piece, but rather folded back from the front edge, there was no seam within which to secure that loop.  The instructions directed me to “slash” the yoke front facing through the center of the “squares,” shown here in basting:

The basted “squares” indicating where the “slashes” should be are in white just to the right of the center fold line in the photo.

 

And this was supposed to be done after the collar was already on and the facing properly secured in place.  Well, I knew I wasn’t going to be slashing anything without getting a second opinion, and furthermore, I knew I would need to do the installation of the loop before the collar was on and the facing turned.  I did not know how I could ever secure the loop without access to the inside of the facing.

I went online to Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing Club which is by subscription on Facebook.  Once I posed the question about the best way to accomplish this task, Mary Funt of the blog Cloning Couture suggested I use an awl to work holes where those squares were, separating the wool threads and enlarging the openings to the size I needed.  Then I could whip the edges with silk buttonhole twist to secure them.  Mary also suggested I use a medical clamp (hemostat, which I highly recommend as a vital sewing tool! I have had mine for years and use it frequently), to help flatten the raw ends of the loop.

This shows the awl, the hemostat, and my spool of vintage pink silk buttonhole twist, along with a sample “insertion” of the loop.

First I practiced! Here are my practice holes:

Practice holes helped me determine how large the hole needed to be to accommodate the loop.

The hemostat was also helpful in pulling the end of the loop through the holes I made.  Susan Khalje further suggested that the loop would need to be very securely fastened inside, and she suggested I under-stitch that part of the facing, catching the loop in the stitching.

The completed holes, bound with silk twist.

The loop inserted into the facing.

This shows the secured ends of the loop inside the facing.

The under-stitched facing, in which I further secured the loop.

Oh my goodness! Thank you Mary Funt and Susan Khalje!  Using this method produced exactly the results I wanted.

The finished loop.

After the mystery of the loop was solved successfully, it was on to the collar, and ultimately on to the final steps before attaching the lining.  The completion of this coat is in sight, after all this time. I can’t wait!

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Loops for buttons, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

The Pink Coat Odyssey, Part 1

Instruction sheets for patterns always intrigue me, and especially so, instruction sheets for vintage Vogue Designer patterns.  They so often include a quirky method of handling one aspect of construction. And often the construction details for an entire complicated dress or coat fit on one side of one sheet, completely at odds with the amount of time involved in the actual process from beginning to end. The beginning of my pink coat, however, commenced long before I started at “ number 1” in the Instructions.

With my adjusted and fitted muslin (toile) completed, and with its pieces disassembled again, I transferred it onto white silk organza to be used as both the pattern for the fashion fabric and as its underlining.  This was the point about which I was both equally excited and terrified! There is a real thrill involved in laying out the pattern on your fashion fabric, but my pink coating wool is no normal fashion fabric.  A rare survivor, this French Lesur wool from the mid 1960s, needed some special attention before I could begin to lay out my organza pieces on it.

Often vintage wool displays a crease down its center point where it has been folded for decades. Fortunately, this Lesur wool was folded with the right side in.  There was a definite crease line, and it looked a bit soiled as well.

In the left half of this photo, you can see a line of light soil along the crease.  This is the wrong side of the fabric.

I used a Woolite spot remover pad and worked gently along the fold line to reduce the minor discoloration.  Then I put the entire length of wool in the dryer with a Woolite dry cleaning cloth to freshen it.  When it came out, the crease line was practically gone, but I noticed that the wool appeared just a bit thinner along that line.  I knew I would have to work around this when I laid out my pattern pieces.

It is barely visible, but there is a line of thinner wool close to the center of the photo.

Working single layer, as is customary with couture construction, I spread out the wool on my dining room table.  The “coat front and lower back” piece is quite wide, and extended across the center point line of my wool.

You can see how wide the Coat Front and Lower Back pattern piece (#3) is, on the lower left.

Because the longest straight edge of the piece is the front facing, I knew I had to make sure that line of “thinner” wool  was on the facing and not on the main body of the coat.  Fortunately the wool had no nap, so I was able to stagger those two very large pattern pieces with different vertical orientations, which saved the day!

A number of pieces were on the bias which always seems to use more fabric.

All in all, it was tight fit to get all the pattern pieces on.  I let it all sit overnight so I could doublecheck myself with fresh eyes before I actually started to cut.  Knowing how special this wool is made taking that first cut with scissors extremely nerve-wracking.  However, I figured it was now or never, and so I cut!  One by one, the pieces piled up and when I was finished , all I had left was this small mound of scraps!

I have just enough left to make a half belt, should I choose to do so.

Next up was a part I always enjoy for some strange reason: basting the silk organza underlining and the fashion fabric together.  And then to the Instruction Sheet, only to remember that the first thing to do was the pockets!  I like detail work, but whenever I have to make a slash in the main body of anything, I get anxious.  Fashion Sewing is not for sissies!

Here is one of the pockets slashed and ready to turn.

With lots of basting, lots of double-checking, lots of talking to myself, I finished with two flapped pockets that look they way they should, thank goodness!

I basted the pockets closed to protect them while I finish the rest of the coat.

And then, no rest for the weary, the next item on the sheet was the fly for the concealed front. Actually these are not difficult, although this one was done a bit differently than the one I put on another coat I made several years ago.

The buttonholes on a fly front need to be as flat as possible, so even though I was working in wool, which would normally dictate bound buttonholes, I made these five buttonholes by machine.  Obviously they do not show, being within a concealed opening, so this was the way to go.

Here is the front of the coat with the concealed placket underneath. Top-stitching will be added later.

Remember what I said about quirky construction?   I had already looked ahead (of course…) to see what next important step I was facing, and indeed, it was a facing!  That looped button which is a design feature on the coat, turns out to be anything but normal. I will cover this interesting – and quirky – application in my next post, as the Pink Coat Odyssey continues.

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

The Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans sometimes need revision.  As a person who likes to make careful lists and schedules, I find it difficult at times when life conspires to upset those plans.  Especially difficult is when my sewing plans go awry!

I have been dreaming about making this coat in my treasured vintage pink wool.

With new enthusiasm after seeing the Dior Exhibit in Denver, I was sure this coat would be well underway by the end of March. However, for an unexpected, albeit happy, change of events, here we are at the end of March and all I have finished is my toile.  But my enthusiasm is still on track!

A fun part of any project in which I use a Vogue Designer pattern is devoted to finding out more about the initial debut of the pattern, and documentation of its appearance in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.  Although I had a good hunch that this pattern was from the mid-sixties, I was quite delighted to see it included in a feature of new Designer patterns debuting in  the October/November 1965 VPBM.       .

The caption for my coat pattern, top and center, reads: “DIOR: The ensemble to wear all year – a dirndled dress and a coat that’s shaped high and narrow.”

 Of course this was when Marc Bohan was the Creative Director at Christian Dior, a period of the 1960s known for its gorgeous dressmaker coats and ensembles.  Here is a sampling of some other designs appearing in the same time frame in a few Vogue Pattern Book Magazines.

I actually own this pattern, too. I have always loved the look of this coat.  This pattern is shown in the same issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine as the Dior design, October/November 1965.  What a great year for coats.

This kimono-sleeved coat was shown made in textured pineapple wool by Einiger. I made my purple coat from vintage Einiger wool, so I know what fabulous quality it is.

This coat features a spread collar on a low V-neck.  This coat and the one above are shown in the February/March 1966 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

This coat is described as being “the total look of the Chanelesque tradition.” It, too, was made from “mossy-surfaced” Einiger wool.

And this coat is reminiscent of the Dior design I am making, with its pointed collar, straight-shape and concealed closing. The tubular belt is a brilliant addition. This design is by Guy Laroche and both it and the pink coat shown above were included in the February/March 1964 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

Back to my toile: I made the first one without any alterations to the pattern.  The first thing I noticed is that the horizontal seam which extends around the back and angles up on either side of the front, seemed to add extra “baggage” in the lower back.

Here was my first toile atop the waxed marking paper. This shows the lower front and back piece, with its angled side seam.

The seam was designed to be below the waistline, but I determined it might look better on me if it were reset to fall exactly on the waist.  This adjustment would keep the spirit of the design, but would be more flattering on me for some reason.

I made another slight adjustment to the shoulder line.  First I cut the shoulder line on the body of the coat back about ½ inch on either side, to reduce some excess fabric across the upper chest.  That made some pulling in the top of the sleeves. So then I added about ½ inch to the top half/curve of each sleeve.  So it was an even swap, just distributed differently.

This shows my markings on the upper shoulder.

And the adjustments to the top of the sleeves.

Interestingly, the sleeves have no shaping by darts or seams on this pattern.  They seemed a bit too full to me, so I tapered the seam to reduce the width of each sleeve by about 1.5 inches.  I have had to make this adjustment to other coat patterns from the same time period, so perhaps a fuller sleeve is a hallmark of that era.  I did not want to narrow the sleeves too much, as they need to be comfortable to wear over long sleeved dresses and sweaters.

I am contemplating adding a half belt, secured with buttons to the back of the coat.  That’s a decision I’ll make as the coat comes together.  The drape of the wool, as opposed to the drape of the muslin, may convince me I do not need it, but I rather like the appearance of a back belt.

Here is a rough mock-up of a possible belt, but this needs much more thought!

I found this picture of another coat which has a high back belt, probably about the length of one which I might add. It is so helpful to find examples like this of design details.

Lots of pink featured in coats from the 1960s. This design was featured in the February/March 1968 International Vogue Pattern Book.

So, I have embarrassing little to show for the past three weeks regarding this coat.  Perhaps the next three weeks may be kinder to me. We shall see!

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Dressmaker coats, Fashion history, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

A Coat For Many Reasons

When I started planning this coat, I could not then have known the many reasons why I am now so happy to have made it.

The journey – and yes, it has been a journey – started with the fabric, offered for sale to me by a reader several years ago.  Simply the provenance of the fabric  – a piece of stamped Ernest Einiger wool, from one of the great mid-century American wool manufacturers, now sadly long gone – was reason enough to give it some extra thought.  I knew I had to wait for the right time to put pattern and scissors to it. When the Pantone Color of 2018 – “Ultraviolet” – an orchid shade of purple – was announced, I knew the time had arrived!

In the meantime, I had given it much thought and the more I looked at it, the more I thought I would be wise to get some construction advice on it.  Happily I was able to go to Baltimore in mid-April for one of Susan Khalje’s week-long Couture Sewing Schools, during which everyone works on their own project.  Usually one is expected to arrive with a pattern selected, and a marked muslin (toile) of her project ready for fitting.  This time was no different, which meant that all my thinking about the best pattern to use for this coat was ready to come to fruition.

Because the fabric is a very heavy coat-weight boucle, I originally looked for a pattern which either did not include buttons and buttonholes (traditionally more difficult to do well on a fabric of this weight), or had slot-seam buttonholes. I thought I had the perfect pattern in this Vogue from 1962. However, when I actually opened out the pattern pieces, I realized it was not going to work.  The kimono sleeves would surely produce drag lines in this heavy fabric, and a double layer of the wool in the shawl collar could be quite bulky.

Then I pulled out two more patterns which I thought were possibilities:

The single slot-seam buttonhole in the Mattli pattern was ideal, but all the intersecting seams could be a problem to do well, so I eliminated that one.  The simple lines of the Christian Dior design were lovely, but then there were more buttons, in addition to my evolving thought that this fabric would work well with a pattern which did not have such a narrow silhouette. It was then that I went to a pattern which I had already used:

View A with the longer sleeve for this coat, although I originally made it with the shorter sleeve here.

I love the simple lines of this coat and its well-turned collar, and I especially love my addition of a half belt to the silk coat I made.  I still wasn’t sure what I would/could do about buttons and buttonholes.  Advice from Susan would be very valuable!  As it turned out, she helped me determine that I could do bound buttonholes even on this very substantial wool.  Another fortuitous finding was that this pattern lent itself to showing off the interesting windowpane weave of the boucle, which became much more apparent the further away from it we got.

Other of Susan’s recommendations included:

1) Making the coat dress length rather than coat length.  The intensity of the color, used with this pattern, looks better in a shorter length.

2) Cutting the belt on the bias.  This was brilliant and gives a nice subtle focus to the back of the coat.  She also recommended that I line the belt with the silk charmeuse lining fabric rather than using the boucle .  It reduces bulk and makes the belt lay much more nicely.  I sewed one side of the belt by machine and then hand-stitched the other side, making for a nice crisp turn of the charmeuse to the underside.

My addition of a belt to this pattern is an excellent example of what is known as a “dressmaker detail.”

Here the bias cut of the belt is quite apparent.

The entire coat is underlined in silk organza, including the belt, shown here with one side sewn by machine.

And here is the silk charmeuse belt lining almost ready to be applied by hand.

3) Underlining the collar with charmeuse (again to reduce bulk) and then under-stitching the underside, to make it turn beautifully.

The collar on this pattern is beautifully designed to sit perfectly on the neck.

4) Clipping the long back center seam, even though it is on the straight of grain.  Clipping it reduces strain on that seam and allows a much more fluid movement of the back of the coat.  (I’m sorry I forgot to take a picture of this, but it is certainly not rocket science, just common sense.)

5) Tips for matching the woven windowpane design in the wool, the weave of which was difficult to see close-up.  Forked pins and a walking foot  helped to keep the layers – even basted ones – from shifting.

Other procedures I used to help “tame” this fabric were:  lots of judicious trimming of seams and corners; clipping, clipping and more clipping; lots of steam and pressing; lots of basting of seams.

I even trimmed the edges of the bound buttonholes to reduce bulk down the front of the coat. I am not completely happy with the buttonholes (which were difficult to do on this fabric), but once I finished them, they looked better than I thought they would.

I found these buttons in an Etsy store. From the 1960s, they are a nice fit with the fabric and the pattern. And I like their wobbly edges!

By the time I returned home from my class, I had the coat about half finished, but I felt completely confident in my ability to finish it competently.   Here are a few more details:

The sleeves feature a turned- back vent which is secured by a button through all layers.

I used the pockets for this version of the coat (which I had eliminated for my silk version.)

The belt is attached to the side seams just about an inch below the armhole. This placement allows it to fall right at the center back waist.

It is always rewarding to get to the point in the construction of a coat when you are ready to put the lining in.  And to make it just a little more fun, I added flat silk piping on the inside front facings – which will match one of the dresses (still to be made) I intend to wear with this coat:

I ended the piping at the shoulder seam on either side. (I see a basting thread which is peeking out from the piping!)

So my “coat for many reasons” allowed me 1) to use treasured fabric which had been in my collection for a few years; 2) to take advantage of the focus of this beautiful purple color during the year of  “Ultraviolet;” 3) to use a coat pattern which I really wanted to use again after making it once; and 4) to have experience in working – successfully – with such a heavyweight wool.

But the most important reason?  I need another coat. I always need another coat.

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Coats, Dressmaker details, Mid-Century style, piping, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

The Essential Coat

How many coats do you own? (Not enough?) How many do you need? (More than you know!) Putting need aside, how many should you have? (Plenty!) In your sewing and in planning your wardrobe, do you give as much thought to your coats as you do to your dresses or pants or blouses? My guess is that you do not.

In our very casual world, coats seem to have taken on the essence of “practical” or “function over form.”   To me, this is such a shame, as I believe coats have an aura to them unmatched by any other garment. They are, after all, so often a significant part of the first impression you make when arriving at an event or party – or anything for that matter. A fantastic coat can also leave a lasting impression when departing such an event.

In her iconic book, What Should I Wear, Claire McCardell devotes an entire chapter to coats. Here is just a small snippet of her thoughts on the impression that your coat can make: “…Remember that a first impression often comes when you are wearing a coat. When you are interviewed for a job, you keep your coat on. Your future employer’s first impression of you may be based on the coat you are wearing.

When you walk down the aisle of a theatre, you are wearing a coat … your audience has already judged you and the most beautiful dress in the world cannot alter that first impression. Coats ride buses and subways and taxicabs…. A coat is not something to be dismissed lightly.”   (The Rookery Press, New York, New York, 2012, pages 61- 62.)

In The Little Pink Book of Elegance: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Living with Style, by Jodi Kahn, she writes: “Many an elegant look is spoiled by throwing on a coat or a wrap that is anything but . . . [I]f you think about the most elegant women you know, or those in the pubic eye, you’ll probably realize they have fabulous outerwear. In the ‘60s, Jacqueline Kennedy asked her designer of the day, Oleg Cassini, to pay special attention to what she wore over her clothes since she was always being photographed coming and going. Even if you don’t have to worry about getting your picture snapped around every corner, a few great coats will transform almost any [look.]” (Peter Pauper Press, Inc., White Plains, New York, c2005, pages 29-30.)

A beautiful coat can also hint at what is beneath it. One of the most elegant looks one can wear (and make for herself) is a matching coat and dress ensemble, where the two pieces are intended only to ever be worn with each other. Such a coat and dress often share similar style lines.   This Vogue Couturier Design by Mattli of London is an example of this:

Another example of a coat and dress with complementary style lines is this Vogue pattern:

And although the style lines of the dress and the coat in this Vogue Paris Original by Madame Gres are not matching, clearly the coat and dress featured in blue on the pattern envelope are intended as such an ensemble:

Here is an example of a formal dress and matching coat, sharing seaming details and clearly designed to go together. Would this dress be anywhere as exciting without its matching coat?

This evening coat makes my heart skip a beat!

Not every coat needs to match a dress, however. Here is a small sampling of coats, both dressy “dressmaker” coats and classy, more tailored coats, the prototypes of which have their rightful place in your coat wardrobe:

This is my original pattern from which I made the featured coat when I was in my mid-twenties. I loved this coat and only wish I still had it!

I am very anxious to make a coat from this pattern.

This is a beautiful example of a dressmaker coat.

Another dressmaker coat.

A coat better suited for everyday wear, but still beautiful.

One of the many catalogs we receive here at our home is the catalog from the J. Peterman Company. It is so creatively conceived and presented, with each entry reading like a mini story, and often evocative of other times and places. The “Owner’s Manual” (as the company’s catalogs are called) arriving during this past holiday season was no exception. Imagine my delight when turning the page to this entry for a “French Coat with timeless Parisian style.”

Click on the image to read its story.

But what really caught my eye was the caption at the top of the page: “I want to know the woman in that coat.” In a nutshell, that sums up the power of a beautiful coat. What fun to know that, as ones who can make our coats, we can also be the woman who made that coat!

And now, in deference to some of my readers who want progress reports on my Number Four Classic French Jacket, here are a few photos – and a short quiz for those of you who have never made one of these jackets, but hope to one day.

Here is the neckline, ready to be stitched.

I call this the “vest” stage. This is the front of the jacket . . .

And this is the back of the jacket.

It is always fun to pin the sleeves on quickly just to see a jacket taking form!

As you can see, all the machine quilting is complete. I’ve finished the interior seams as much as I can at this point. The next step is to insert the sleeves. Then I can complete the finishing work on the interior seams and the hems and get to work on the trim and the pockets.

QUIZ: How much more will I be using my sewing machine to do this work?

  1. a) only for the insertion of the sleeves
  2. b) only to make the pockets
  3. c) both for the insertion of the sleeves and to make the pockets
  4. d) not for anything

Back to Coats:  Are you ready to make one after reading this post? I hope so!

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Filed under Chanel-type jackets, Coats, Dressmaker coats, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

A Passel of Patterns

“Just when I thought I had seen it all…” That was my reaction when not one, not two, not three, but four “new-to-me” vintage Vogue patterns came up for sale in the span of just a couple of weeks. Although I am always on the lookout for any pattern which might expand my collection in a meaningful way, I am, nevertheless, quite particular when it comes to buying new ones. I only want to add patterns which I think I will use at some point, even if it is just one detail which I might combine with another pattern. But I admit to having certain proclivities which seem to guide (no, sabotage) my pattern collecting – such as coats. I am complete mush in the face of a beautiful coat pattern! Another weakness is cocktail dresses and ensembles, especially ones with little jackets. Oh, I do love a classy cocktail dress! So, is it any wonder, that when these four patterns came “on the market,” I put considerable effort into trying to make them mine? And I hope that, even if you would never see yourself using a vintage pattern, you might still find much to admire in these beauties.

If you follow me on Instagram (@fiftydresses), you have already had a sneak peek at the first pattern.

The description reads: “Slim dress has flange with front draping. Narrow shoulder straps. Short jacket with below elbow length kimono sleeves has crossed over fronts. Left shoulder scarf is joined to front shoulder.”

Lots of pattern pieces as you can see in the diagram.

The front draping and the left shoulder scarf, adding back interest, put this ensemble on a notch well above ordinary.

This Vogue Couturier Design by Ronald Paterson was next to come on the market, at which time I happened to be traveling. Of course, that did not discourage me from keeping at the important business at hand, i.e. pattern collecting.  I felt very fortunate to have the winning bid, tucked in between airline flights!

This coat is a perfect example of what is known as a “dressmaker coat.”

I was initially drawn to the blouse pattern, which has such a demure, ladylike feel to it, but, of course, the coat with its lovely collar and flattering seaming completely won me over.

The description reads: “Narrow, semi-fitted coat has curved seaming at back of waistline. Small, shaped collar; long sleeves, four fake welt pockets [I can live with that, or perhaps eliminate them…] Fly-front, tuck-in blouse has kimono sleeves in front, set-in at back. Trim-stitching on shaped neckline and sleeve bands. Slim skirt.”

The long darts in the coat sleeves are an unusual detail, and notice the four neck darts on both the coat and the blouse.  These vintage patterns give so much useful information on the backs of their envelopes.

No sooner had the last pattern appeared than another one from the same decade came to my attention. From the House of Dior, this classic dress and coat have some notable stylistic details, such as the Dior darts in the bodice of the dress and the shoulder line extensions on both the dress and the coat.

The description reads: “Sleeveless, semi-fitted dress has back shoulder line extension and high round neckline. Ribbon belt. Slender coat has padded [YES! Padded!] band edging at side closing, around neckline and on long sleeves.”

If I make the dress, I will be cutting in the shoulders by a few inches and probably slightly reshaping the neckline. Also, the ribbon belt looks a bit too wide, but that will take some more thought. I think the coat is gorgeous.

When the final “new-to-me” pattern came up for sale, I was still traveling! I was getting proficient at keeping up with multiple bids, but the auction for this one was ending when I was going to be landing at our home city, so I resolved myself to losing this one. How lovely when I found out a few hours later I had, indeed, had the winning bid.

I have found that vintage Guy Laroche patterns often have a bit of “drama” to them. Certainly that is the case with this dress with its draped back.   That detail and the perfectly placed, half-looped bow at the shoulder make this design a winner in my opinion.

This pattern is copyright 1960, making it the earliest of these four patterns.

The description reads: “Slim skirt in two lengths joins the bloused bodice at waistline. Loose draped back section below shaped neckline. Three quarter length fitted sleeves and sleeveless. “ I quite like the options available: long, short, three-quarter sleeves, sleeveless. This dress could be quite fancy or understated, depending on the fabric and how it is made.

Once these patterns started arriving in the mail, I was, happily, not disappointed.  However, since I’ve been home, I have been trying to tow the line on any more pattern purchases after my flurry of activity! I have, instead, been trying to concentrate on a flurry of sewing. It’s great, finally, to be back in the sewing room. Dare I say (without jinxing myself) that I am excited to show you – soon – what I am working on?

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Filed under Bows as design feature, Coats, Cocktail dresses, Dior darts, Dressmaker coats, kimono sleeves, Mid-Century style, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

A Sewing Mystery

Sewing with vintage patterns is such an interesting activity. Beyond the finesse of the designs, the intricacies of construction, the attention to small details, and the fabulous pattern art lay some sophisticated and mysterious references to the history of fashion sewing.

For example, I am in wishful awe at some of the fabric suggestions on the pattern envelopes: one pattern for a coat and dress with a copyright of 1957 suggests, among other more common fabrics: Barathea, Shantung, Surah, Matelasse. Another coat pattern suggests Camel’s hair and Worsted, while Madras is suggested on two dress patterns. This is just a small sampling, but you can surmise from this that the sewing audience for these patterns knew their fabrics – and the pattern companies expected them to.

But it is in the short descriptive entries on the back of the envelopes where I have come across a mystery of terminology. One of the first vintage patterns I purchased was this coat pattern:

This pattern is dated 1957.

On the back of the envelope, to quote:

9232 Coat “easy to make” Flared back coat in regulation [my emphasis] and shorter length. High front and back belt, optional. Tapering kimono sleeves may be worn pushed up. [Don’t you love that styling advice?]

So, I thought, “What is regulation length?” I could not find a reference to this term anywhere – not in Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, not in any of the vintage sewing books I own, nor in any of the vintage Vogue Pattern Book Magazines which I have in my collection.  I figured I would just keep an eye out for other references to this term, and it did not take long for me to come across another one.

Isn’t this just so chic? No date on this pattern, but it clearly is about 1961.

This one was in reference to pants:

Again, to quote:

5234 Coat, blouse, slacks and cummerbund Knee length coat with standing band collar has full length novelty or buttoned closing. Opening in side seams. Below elbow length kimono sleeves. Over-blouse may be worn tucked in. [More of that styling advice!] Below elbow length sleeves and sleeveless. Regulation slacks. [Again, my emphasis] Shirred cummerbund fastens at underarm.

Then my search for other examples went dry – until a couple of months ago when I found this pattern on eBay:

(I have a difficult time resisting Asian-inspired dresses.) When the pattern arrived, I was delighted to read its description:

5571 One piece dress and pants   Sheath dress [here’s another mystery – why did they call this a sheath dress and not a cheongsam?] in three lengths, has opening in side seams. Optional waist-line darts. Diagonal right side frog closing below standing band collar. Below elbow length sleeves rolled up for cuffs, short sleeves and sleeveless. Regulation pants. [My emphasis]

With two examples of pants/slacks (notice that one is called pants and one is called slacks, just to compound the confusion), I thought I might be onto something. So back to Fairchild’s I went to look at the entry for pants. I found this excellent diagram about pant lengths, but no reference to “Regulation” length.

The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Third Edition, by Charlotte Mankey Calasibetta and Phyllis Tortora, Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, 2003, p. 354. Click on the picture for a better view. It was difficult to avoid the distortion on the spine side of the book.

Some further sleuthing led me to some of the descriptive terms used for military attire, and yes, there are references to regulation requirements, but nothing that could be transferred to fashion sewing in the early 1960s. I suspect there could be a carry-over from those pants/slacks that women wore in war plants during World War II. But that doesn’t help explain the coat length. And here, look at this pattern from approximately the same time period as the coat at the beginning of this post: it is virtually identical, but there is no reference to “regulation” anywhere.

This pattern is dated 1957.

I am stumped! I am certainly not losing sleep over this (that I save for my sewing projects), but I do find it intriguing. Do any of you, my readers, know why the term “regulation” is used regarding the length of some coats and pants? Has anyone else come across this term?  Can you solve this sewing mystery?

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Filed under Coats, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s