I had the best surprise yesterday! I got a package in the mail and it looked suspiciously sewing-related. Except that I hadn’t ordered anything. What could it be?
Inside were these amazing vintage patterns from my friend F. (Name withheld to protect the innocent from the harsh glare of sewing blog fame). These patterns are so amazing!!! And unexpected. She had been helping her parents move, and found these and thought of me. Yay!
Looks like someone (her mum?) was a big fan of the mod look in the late 60s.
I don’t even know where I’m going in this outfit, but I bet I need a Vespa and a bob haircut to get there. And the hat!
This dress looks pretty modern. Until you get to the broach, but this might be my safest bet to sew. She’s wearing gloves (and Lanvin), so maybe I get to go to some sort of posh party. The theatre, perhaps.
Oh yay! Looks like Mr Garment is taking me out to dinner someplace fancy. View A folks! Will there be cocktails^
Looks like I’m off to some sort of party with Edie Sedgwick, maybe. Or just lunch in Rome? I think this one is my favourite. The dress might need to be just a tad shorter though, no?
This one is cute, but I’m not sure if I can pull it off with my figure. I’m not as petite as those 60s models. But it looks like I’m off to the Mad Men steno pool.
On the back it describes the designer’s look as “young, fresh, bright and professional!”. Yup, I’m off to get a job!
Now, with the improbable bowler, I can only be off to a casting session for The Avengers. But hat aside, this dress is the most unique. It has a sort of draped panel that opens on one side in the front (with a pocket) and the opposite side in the back. Very unique!
So thank you very much F. for sending me the patterns, and please thank your mother for me, for her great taste in 1960s patterns and for making you clean out the basement.
So what do you think? What should I sew first? And where can I get those hats?
I can’t show them all, so here are the ones I’m most likely to sew.
There is a nice blouse (Style 3351) from the early 1980s, but it’s got 1970s styling. There is McCall’s 3296, which is a bias-cut skirt. There is also a fishtail version, but I think I’ll stick with the classic a-line skirt. Another good one is Simplicity 7254, an apron from 1975. I can’t believe I have no apron patterns at all, and yet I am in need of an apron.
This is another one that looks nice. McCall’s 5861, from 1992 includes a tank top and dress with Made-For-You A-B-C-D cup sizing. I think it might make a nice summer dress.
But the real gems are in the children’s patterns. Here we have Simplicity 7412, from 1976. Clearly, it’s a first communion dress, but without the capelet (and maybe a bit more length) it’s quite cute. Then there is this French pattern for a jumper by Modes et travaux. And my favourite is the boys pyjamas. They are pull-on with no buttons! My kids are pretty allergic to buttons, and this pattern has a really nice, unique neckline.
And finally, these were the most unusual kids’ patterns. I’m not sure I’ll be sewing them, but the 1950s styling is interesting. First there is Butterick 7602, a pull-on shirt. I’ve never seen a shirt with this type of neckline. Next is Simplicity 1785, a child’s mandarin pyjamas and robe. So 1950s! And finally a ski suit: Simplicity 4636.
A big thank you to both the Easter bunny and my husband’s aunt (name omitted to protect her from the notoriety of sewing blog fame )!
Is this not the cutest hipster utility jacket for toddlers ever? It is a rhetorical question and the answer is “yes!”.
It’s part of the stash of vintage patterns that my mother gave me when she cleaned up her sewing things. But this was not one of her patterns. There’s a bit of writing on the envelope. It says “Effie’s pattern – 1958”. I would recognize my grandmother’s handwriting anywhere. And of course it isn’t her pattern either. Effie is my great-grandmother and this is her pattern.
The pattern is Butterick 6176 in size 2. From the envelope back: “Toddler’s Sunsuit or Overalls and Jacket. (A) This short button-front jacket has long, cuffed sleeves set in raglan style. Makes a suit with these side-buttoned overalls (B). (View C) Make this simple sunsuit: bib-top with button-on straps and briefest bottoms.” Indeed!
How old is this pattern?
If you look for this pattern on the Vintage Patterns Wiki, you’ll see it says it was a pattern from the 1950s. However, I think this pattern was probably released through the 1950s and 1960s.
It’s difficult to date vintage patterns, and I am certainly no expert. Butterick patterns, like this one, don’t always have a date printed on them. You have to make an educated guess. Sometimes you can use the pattern illustration, or certain design elements to date the pattern, but children’s patterns tend to be less fashion-forward than patterns for women’s clothing. Another way to date a pattern is by the pattern envelope style.
This pattern has the classic upper-left square around the Butterick logo that is typical of patterns from the 1950s. You can see the same style logo in this pattern dated 1956. Her copy was probably published in the 1950s. There were a few other patterns with this one, with dates printed on them, that were from the 1930s and 1940s.
However, even though the copy of this pattern that my grandmother had was from the 1950s, you can find this pattern with different envelope designs. This probably means that it was published over an extended period of time. It would have to be published in the late 1940s or after, since the pattern is printed and not perforated in all the versions I’ve seen. And it seems to have been published through the 1960’s judging by logo design alone. The price of the pattern varied between 35 and 48 cents, from what I can tell from a quick internet search.
How is it different from modern patterns?
The envelope from my grandmother’s pattern is barely holding together, but the pattern and instructions are in great shape. It looks like only the overalls or sunsuit were actually sewn up. The jacket was carefully cut out though. My great grandmother had eight grandchildren to sew for in the 1950s and 1960s, but I’m curious about who got the overalls.
The first thing I noticed were the cutting layouts. There are layouts for fabric with widths of 35″, 39″ and 54″. Fabric usually now comes in widths of 45″ or 60″.
I also think it’s cute that the pattern calls for the use of tailor’s tacks or a tracing wheel, a tool “much used by Professionals”. I like the gratuitous capitalization.
The pattern also tells you to make corded, blanket-stitched button holes by hand. Ooh la la! Keep in mind that this jacket is in size 2 and will last about a year before the lucky, but admittedly well-dressed recipient grows out of it. “Modern sewing is easy”, it says on the envelope. Un huh. I recently read a blog post that asked if patterns used to be more complicated. In this case, yes.
What else is different? If you look at the pattern illustration, you’ll see that this is a pattern for both boys and girls. If you look at Butterick’s current catalogue, you won’t find any patterns for boys at all, unless you count pyjamas or a layette. McCall’s has only a couple patterns for boys. And if you look at the girls’ patterns on either site, they are all super girly – ruffles, loads of pink, bows and ribbons. Ugghhh.
About the closest you would come to this pattern is McCall’s M6385 or Simplicity 2292. But look at the styling. It’s sort of like a big billboard ad “You Must Dress Your Girls in Pink.” And of course the boy outfits must be “boy-ed-up” with “boy”-themed appliqué work. Personally, I prefer the little red utility jacket.
I think it’s pretty fun to open up old patterns, but I’m geeky that way. What about you? Have you ever tried a vintage children’s sewing pattern?
From the Vintage Patterns wiki: “The top-stitched, lined coat with princess seaming has front button closing, collar, pockets concealed in side front seams, long set-in sleeves and optional belt in back.”
One of the biggest side effects of organizing my pattern collection is a voracious need for even more patterns. Sadly, I am not independently wealthy. I cannot buy all the patterns I want.
But, I am getting new patterns. New old patterns. My mum is cleaning up the house and I asked for any old patterns that she wasn’t going to use again. We looked at them together over Skype, and this is one of the ones on the way.
It isn’t exactly my size, so we’ll see if I can work with the pattern. Now what colour fabric should I buy…
I really wanted to participate, but the 1940s are difficult for me. I love the art deco styles from the 1920s and 1930s. I like the mod styles of the 1960s. I appreciate that the styles from the 1950s flatter my figure. But I’m much less familiar with the 1940s fashion-wise.
Then it occurred to me that I have a real piece of 1940s clothing in my possession – my grandmother’s wedding dress. A few years ago, when my grandmother died, the dress came to live at my house. I had put it away and I hadn’t taken a really good look at it since.
So for the sew along, my plan is to remake my grandmother’s wedding dress.
My Grandparents in the 1940s
In the late 1930s in Vancouver my grandmother finished nursing school and began work as a psychiatric nurse. She and her friend bought a car, and throughout the 1940’s went on a number of road trips. She often told me the story of how on a trip to the states, she and her sister had stocked up on silk stockings, luxuries that were not available in Canada during wartime. She had to hide the stockings in the sleeves of her clothing to get them across the border.
In 1941, the car needed repairs, and my grandfather was referred for the job. My grandfather was a truck mechanic. During the war, he worked for Shell Oil assembling tanker trucks. Since his job was considered essential to the war effort, he wasn’t drafted.
My grandparents started dating in 1942, and on July 14, 1945, my grandparents were married. My grandmother wore a green wedding dress. When asked why she chose the colour green she stated simply that there were shortages during the war.
Canada in the 1940s
Canada joined the war effort in 1939. Conscription was ordered in 1944. Even though the population of Canada was only 11,000,000 in 1938, over 1,000,000 Canadians served in the war. More than 40,000 did not come home.
At home, rationing began in 1942 and didn’t end until 1947, two years after the war ended. Clothing was rationed using a ticket system. Silk importation ended in 1941. Nylon was difficult to find as well.
My GrandMother’s Wedding Dress
My grandmother’s dress, is actually a suit. There is a 3-panel, A-line skirt that hits just below the knee. There is also a fitted jacket with 3/4 length sleeves, that buttons up the front.
The first thing you notice is the colour. It’s so green!
There have you gotten over the colour yet? No? Take another look.
Once you see past the colour, the dress design is pretty interesting.
The skirt is a simple three-panel A-line skirt. It looks like there are more panels in the back, but in fact, the dressmaker simply did inverted pin tucks to make it appear as if there were more pieces of fabric. The waistband is reinforced with grosgrain ribbon and there is a rather industrial-looking zipper and a hook and eye closure. The seams are not quite even and are just finished with pinking shears. The hem is hand-stitched and the hem has been repaired. Although the skirt is sheer, there is no lining.
The jacket has 3/4 length sleeves that are a little wider at the bottom. There are shoulder pads (factory-made) that fit into the caps of the sleeves. The back of the jacket uses princess seams. The front has a gathered, faux yoke at the top. At the waist there are triangular insets that allow for a second set of gathers. There is a row of clear plastic shank buttons that close with button loops up the front of the jacket. The jacket has a facing of synthetic fabric that is hand-stitched in place. It is also unlined. I think it’s about a 36 bust, so maybe, a size 18 in vintage sizes, and maybe a 10 today.
Who Made the Dress?
The dress is clearly hand-made. This isn’t a factory dress or a department store dress and there are no tags at all. At first I thought my grandmother made the dress. However, family lore says she bought it in Vancouver. It must have been from a local dress-maker. It’s made well with good techniques (ribbon in the waistband, etc.), but shortcuts have been taken. For example, the inner jacket facing is made of several pieces of fabric.
The fabric is really quite sheer and very musty. I was tempted to hand wash it, but I did a fibre burn test on a small piece of fabric from behind the zipper. The fabric disappeared into grey ash. And then I took another tiny piece from the seam and hand-washed it and it shrank like crazy. I’m pretty sure this is rayon crepe. So I can’t hand wash it. Good thing I checked! It irons quite well though.
The Sew-along Challenge
The more I looked at the dress, the more I thought the dress itself would have been nicer if it just weren’t so green. I figure, if I use a fabric without a floral pattern, and choose something a little prettier I might end up with clothing I would actually wear. Blue maybe? Black? In a sheer fabric? But lined, definitely lined. So yes, I’m going to try to remake the suit in a better colour.
What pattern to use?
This part is tricky, and I could use some help.
The skirt is almost exactly the same as Simplicity 3688. You can’t really tell from the photo, but the technical drawing does show a three-panel skirt. It’s such a simple design that I could probably just use any a-line skirt pattern. It wouldn’t even have to be a vintage pattern.
The jacket is another story. It’s is a little like the Vogue 8767 jacket. It’s even more similar to the blouse in Simplicity 3688. There is also the jacket in Vogue 1072. The part that is the most difficult to find, even in the vintage patterns I’ve seen, is the triangular insets at the jacket waist. If I can’t find anything else, I’ll probably use the Vogue 8767, but I’m hopeful that I can come up with something better.
Have you seen any patterns that more closely match the dress? Let me know in the comments.