Remember the old joke about the fortune cookie fortune that read, "Help! I'm trapped in a fortune cookie factory"?
Occasionally I run across patterns that remind me of that. See, it's easy for me to forget the people behind the pattern illustrations: the trained artists who made a living by turning out drawing after drawing of wrap dresses, button down shirts and fly-front pants. But sometimes an illustration comes along that -- whether through its composition, color or subtext -- is the equivalent of that fortune cookie message. Pick up the envelope and listen. You'll hear a soft whisper: "I studied at the Sorbonne. I have more in me than another zip-front housedress. I have things I want to say."
Here's one example: Butterick 2305, circa early 1960s. I lack the artistic training to explain just why the composition is striking, but it really does jump out. (Maybe it's the way the men face different ways, their arm gestures almost mirroring each other?) Sure, it's an illustration for a shirt design -- and an interesting design for the view B hemline, at that.
But look closer. Can't you imagine it hung in a gallery as a 50s suburban update on the happy/sad drama faces? It would be titled "You wouldn't believe what the little woman did this time!" -- the first instance having a wacky sitcom interpretation, the second a more sinister Belle de jour one:
Yeah. That made me feel sort of icky, too.
Let's move on to Simplicity 4971, also from the early 1960s. If Butterick 2305 is compelling, subtle and disturbing, this is...wow. This is the kind of thing you get in freshman art class. Look:
The sensitive young boy in capris and espadrilles touches the elbow of the jacket-wearing tough as the Pants of Oppression look on in disapproval! This isn't a pattern illustration -- it's a coming out story.
Tomorrow: The Men's Week wrap-up begins with Day One of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY!