First, let me say I adore the bold title Butterick gave this 1960s pattern, 5490:
"The Multi-Mini: A Short Span of Skirt with Many Variations."
What a perfect description for a mini! In fact, I think from now on I'm going to refer to all of my skirts like this. Maxis will heretofore be knows as "long spans of skirt." Pencil skirts as "medium spans of skirts." (This, to borrow from THE BIG LEBOWSKI, will make me "not a fan of brevity," so I guess my new all-purpose term for "skirt" will be "el skirtirino.")
Anyway, I think the "many variations" of the multi-mini are darling. Those pockets! The mock wrap! Where I question it is View B. See, on the far right there?
Yeah. It's made out of fake fur.
Oh, I think it would be cute. But is it wise? First, there's the danger of what might get stuck in it -- God forbid you spill ketchup or accidentally sit on a piece of chewing gum. But what worries me more is the unwanted attention it might bring from unsavory strangers who can't resist "petting" the skirt. Is this really something you'd want to wear on a New York subway?
I was going through some patterns to list in my etsy shop today and ran across this 1980s wonder, McCall's 2070:
All that Dress for Success wonder! The shoulder pads! The pleated jabot! The bows! But what really intrigued me was the note written in the bottom right corner:
"Collar is large Blouse is short" -- clear enough. But then...
"True Blouse Not Shirt"
This gave me pause. What did it mean? I've always considered "blouse" to be a subset of the larger category "shirt." If you asked me to define a blouse, I'd say it was a woman's dressier shirt made out of woven fabric.
But could something be a blouse and not a shirt?
I don't have access to the full Oxford English Dictionary Online, but I looked up "blouse" at AskOxford.com.
• noun1 a woman’s upper garment resembling a shirt. 2 a loose smock or tunic. 3 a type of jacket worn as part of military uniform.
• verb make (a garment) hang in loose folds.
(Ask Oxford also informed my that in Britain "big girl's blouse" is a phrase meaning a weak, cowardly or over-sensitive man. I'd like to work it into my vocabulary, but it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue: "Stop your crying and cook me some dinner, you big girl's blouse!")
Anyway, the Oxford folk seem to be defining "blouse" as something different than a shirt. What's your opinion? Is a "blouse" actually a different item than a shirt, or is it a kind of shirt? What is the meaning of "True Blouse Not Shirt"? And am I spending too much of my time puzzling over other seamstress' cryptic notes?
Scratch that last question! No pattern mystery is too trivial to pursue. In fact, I may have to kick this one over to wordsmith Erin at A Dress A Day for answers!
I love that this 1930s pattern, Butterick 8670, comes with a guarantee. See the little certificate of fashion freshness on the right?
Here's a close-up:
This is one of those little details from the past that makes me inexplicably happy. The faux wax seal with "Butterick" on it, the ribbon on the certificate... I imagine a Butterick employee strolling by the patterns like a teacher at a science fair, sticking a ribbon on one and declaring, "Yes! It's FASHION FRESH!"
Now take a look at the back. Modern Vogues may give us triangles and rectangles to puzzle over when we try to decide if a pattern will complement our body shape, but in the 1930s Butterick just laid it on the line:
"Coat for Shorter Women of Larger Hip." It's certainly more to the point than "Pear," "Triangle," "Teepee," or whatever other label is in style at the moment.
What's interesting, though, is that the pattern does have a larger bust to hip ratio than I've seen before. Most modern B34s run 36" at the hips, and you can find B34s from the 1940s that measure 37" at the hip. This B34? It has a 29 inch waist and a 38 inch hip. Could Ezra Butterick have made patterns in different proportions in the 30s? Some for Short Women of Larger Hip, some for Tall Women of Smaller Bust, others for Average Women of Thick Waist? It seems unlikely, but what an interesting thought. Anyone out there have Butterick patterns from this era that we can compare?
In the meantime, may all your sewing projects be Certified Fashion Fresh!
I've been tortured by four yards of green gingham recently.
Oh, it's pretty enough fabric. The green is my favorite shade. (I say my favorite color is teal, but this Granny Smith green is everywhere in my life: my kitchen cabinets, my car, several vintage dresses...) And it has the prettiest ribbon stripe running down it. See?
I bought it on eBay several years ago. And here in L.A., now that the weather's gotten warmer -- stop laughing, rest of the world, we do have seasons here, they're just subtle -- my head is spinning with dress pattern and fabric combinations. But green gingham? What had I been thinking when I clicked "bid"?
I love wearing bright colors in the summer. But -- I'm 41. And it wasn't "mutton dressing as lamb" I was worried about as much as "grown woman dressed as a four-year-old." I'd gotten to the point where I decided I'd have to give the fabric away. Then I remembered that I had Simplicity 5349 in my pattern collection and thought that View 2 with the white collar might work well:
Still I doubted it. Could I wear a gingham plaid? Maybe the time had passed.
Then I had The Green Gingham Dream.
In it I saw a friend of mine wearing a green gingham dress. It was one of those weird dream situations where for some reason I couldn't talk to her directly, but in my dream I exclaimed "Staci has shown me that green gingham CAN work for spring! I have to tell her!"
Funnily enough, a few days later I actually identified the dress my friend was wearing in the dream -- it's View 3 from this vintage 60s pattern, Simplicity 8611:
I'm "meh" about the pattern. Making it in my green gingham stripe seems like it would result in the stuff of nightmares -- but maybe my subconscious knows something I don't! At any rate, I'm pretty sure there's a pattern out there for me and my green gingham...and isn't the search half the fun?
What patterns and fabrics have appeared in your dreams? I won't ask "if" -- I'm pretty sure if you're reading this blog, sewing makes a regular appearance in your dream world...
Oh, and my friend? She's got a fantastic sense of style that's all her own, but I wouldn't say green gingham is a part of it. I sent her an email declaring her the Green Gingham Oracle, and I think she's still too stunned to respond.
Day Two of Men's Week brings us to...The Pajama Problem.
Look through vintage pajama and robe patterns for men and one thing becomes clear: pattern illustrators of the past got very nervous when they had to illustrate more than one view of a male nightwear pattern. Because that meant...that meant...
...that meant they'd be showing two or more men in nightclothes TOGETHER. And that raised the question...WHY were these men in pajamas together? Hmmm? Hmmm?!
The most common solution to The Pajama Problem? Give the men objects to show they were DOING something. Because if they were doing something, they couldn't, you know, be doing something else...
In Simplicity 5039, it's quite simple. Shorts is golfing (golfing?!) while Nightshirt and Blue discuss Important Business:
The "sheaf of papers in hand" in Blue's hand is a favorite solution. Men, you see, just can't stop Meeting About Memos, even if it's time for beddy bye.
Even in the 70s, that sheaf of papers came in handy. In Simplicity 7080, Yellow may be getting a little friendly with Plaid, who just stepped out of the shower, but Red has a TPS Report that needs discussing, stat!
Another favorite remedy (as shown in McCall's 4816 above), was to show the robe worn over a tie, pants and dress shoes. Here's another example, Simplicity 4349:
And yet another, Vogue 8753. Little Mr. No Pants in the back there may be going to bed, but Red and
Gray are wheeling, dealing and trading stocks even though the market is
Truth be told, I found so many examples of robes over ties that I have to ask my readers who've studied fashion and costume history: was there a time when men came home and doffed their suit jackets for robes?
Tomorrow: When the Pajama Problem is just too much...
McCall's and Simplicity just released their new spring patterns a few days ago, so it's time to turn our mockery to modern styles for a bit. McCall's did have some nice dresses and shirts -- they always do -- just nothing that jumped out as something that different from what I already have in my stash ad nauseaum.
You know what I really loved about the new patterns? Realizing that McCall's must have used a wind tunnel at the photo shoot. Note this model's blown-back locks:
Reminiscent of an '80s hair metal video, aren't they?
But they CERTAINLY wouldn't have dared to use that wind tunnel on this pattern, McCall's 6025. They call this pattern -- this is important -- "MISSES' DRESSES IN 2 LENGTHS."
No. No. NO. McCall's, you CANNOT do this. You know this is not a dress. Look at how the poor girl is holding her hands on her hips. She can't MOVE in that outfit -- much less go out in the wind -- without risking exposing, well, everything.
Don't tell me it's short and flirty, McCall's. I read the backs of pattern envelopes. You list the finished length of this "dress" as ranging from 30 1/2 - 32".... while on McCall's 6031, your "TOPS, TUNICS AND DRESSES PATTERN"...
...you list the back length of the TUNICS as ranging from 31 1/4" - 33". Please. Some poor novice seamstress is going to pick up this pattern and have her heart broken, not understanding how she messed up and made a dress that exposes her more than a hospital gown.
After yesterday's post, I have to come clean. I bought this bracelet from an etsy seller about a year and a half ago:
SOMEONE was going to wear it, right? The pattern had already been
destroyed, after all. Better that someone who loves sewing buy it than
-- I mean, I've always meant to do an interview with the seller for the
blog, but I've been terrified to ask the "where do you get your
patterns?" question, and -- my intentions were noble, really -- I was honoring my love of sewing --
Today I was in the process of listing this Advance pattern in my shop when I noticed the writing on the bottom right-hand corner:
"This pattern features The Bishop Method of clothing construction." Curious to know more about the Bishop Method, I pulled out the instructions. No help there -- it's one of those amazingly efficient one-sheet instruction pages that you so often find in older patterns.
A little more poking around revealed this pattern on etsy, which offered a teensy bit of info on the mysterious Method of Bishop:
The Bishop Method, apparently, features fitting with "Key Grain Lines." Hmm. Well, I DO agree that grain lines are important. In fact, the first rule of sewing that my mother drilled into my head was the importance of aligning the grain before cutting out the pattern. (The second was "Never trust Simplicity patterns," which may not be quite as universal a rule.)
Further googling revealed copies of "The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction" by Edna Bryte Bishop available on etsy and Amazon. Never one to turn down an excuse to buy a vintage sewing book, I ordered one -- hopefully I'll be able to report back soon. Anyone out there know more about Advance's Bishop Method?