Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let's hear it for lingerie

Do people even wear peignoirs any more? Or how about gowns like that Grecian model on the right? Looking at this pattern reminds me that my dad used to wait until Christmas Eve to go shopping for Mom. (He always worked a half day on Christmas Eve too.) Used to drive her crazy. But, back then, the stores didn't sell out and there was still plenty of gorgeous merchandise left if you had enough money to pay for it (which evidently Dad did.)

Some Christmases Mom got clothes from Selber Brothers in Shreveport. But sometimes she got lingerie. Beautiful peignoir sets. I was always impressed by all that gorgeous nylon and lace.

We were watching "Bachelor Mother" the other day and Ginger Rogers plays a relatively poor girl who works in a department store. On New Year's Eve, she doesn't have a date but is listening to the radio in her robe. Michael noticed that she had on high-heeled satin slippers. Totally believable. I remember slippers like that. Oh, the elegance of that era.

Shameless plug. Click on this link to find this gorgeous item in my my pattern shop on Artfire.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What is the strangest thing you have made from fabric?

I love the old patterns that taught you to make cool stuff like hats, gloves, purses, home decor, stuffed animals, etc. I get the feeling that there were lots of women back in the day who would try any project if it involved fabric. My grandson recently was pleased to get his birthday gift from my daughter and said, "It's not made of fabric!" Hm-m-m. There's a young woman who makes anything she can from fabric.I love this one on the left because of that cute big cap from the seventies. The smaller hat is cool too as it isn't made from fleece or anything stretch but from cotton or wool type fabrics.

I think one of the strangest things I ever made from fabric was a new boot cover for my son's car. That's that vinyl goodie that wraps around your gear shift knob. Another might be a valve cover for my husband's tuba. It catches the drips that otherwise would land on the floor. So what's your weirdest project?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fabric suggestions

One of the most important factors in vintage pattern use is following the fabric suggestions on the back of the envelope.  I read an old blog post and the young lady asked for suggestions why her dress had not been a success. She had made this pattern (Simplicity 7796) out of a stretch jersey material.

If you read the back of the pattern  envelope, the pattern does call for jersey, but it was bonded jersey. This is a very different thing. In the sixties, I had an orange ensemble with a sleeveless dress like this and a matching trench coat. It was made out of a cotton knit bonded to a foam backing. This was a very heavy fabric. Plus the dress was lined and had tons of interfacing. The dress has to have a shape of its own for this pattern to work.

This pattern would be lovely in a light to medium weight wool, a bonded jersey or even a heavy cotton. With lots of interfacing. But a light stretchy material? Never!

I almost always follow the fabric recommendations on the back of a pattern. And even then I've had a project fail because the fabric wasn't right. The fabric has so much to do with the way the garment hangs and fits. I know that sometimes the fabric suggestions on an old pattern call for a fabric that no one these days has heard of. But you can always Google it!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Vintage Patterns are Cooler

So why are vintage patterns cooler than modern patterns? Let me count the ways. Older patterns came from an era when you could and would try absolutely any technique while sewing. There were patterns for everything from gloves to hats to tailored suits to fur coats. Fabric was way cheaper and available in more variety, patterns were cheaper, and there were no folks in third world countries making blouses and with tucks and ruffles for a song. It actually paid to make your own clothes. Now, a home sewer has to really want to do it, because you can find something to fabulous to wear at Ross or or any department store's sale rack for way cheaper than you can make it.
This explains in part why so few people sew today.

Back in my day, some of my friends wore only clothes they (or more usually their mothers) had made. So vintage pattern catalogues were as up to the minute and as comprehensive as they could be. I would pick out a dress in Seventeen magazine and my mom would go to the fabric store to look for a pattern that was close enough to adapt. Try that today. You really could produce a stylish wardrobe at home.

So let's look at example pattern on the left for a tour of some of its cool features. This pattern features French cuffs. How wonderful is that? The pattern called them linked buttons or something like that. But it's a French cuff just like on a man's shirt. This pattern also includes a version with sheer sleeves and underlining. This is something most folks won't bother to try today, but you can make a beautiful garment that way and the full instructions are in this pattern. This pattern also has a optional braid trim and a bias roll collar. I just  adore bias roll collars.

Thank goodness those wonderful patterns are still around and can be found on the Internet. Because if I really, really want to make a  peignoir set this winter, there's a vintage pattern that will show me how to do it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pattern O' Week --Back to School

I found two patterns this week with an apple and back to school motif on the envelope. What are the chances? This one comes from the early sixties and has an apple pocket no less.

I remember that my mom made me three dresses to go to first grade. One was a yellow and brown plaid, double breasted with a big collar and white buttons. My school picture is in that one. Another was lavender with a long torso. The third was plaid with a white blouse. My mom made another one for my daughter to go to school in when she entered first grade. I remember my mom telling me about the features of the dresses and I remember soaking up that terminology. I probably told everybody I knew that my dress was "long torso." What a hoot I must have been as a child. I was exceeding small with an enormous vocabulary.

Those dresses made going to school seem like the greatest adventure ever. And so it has always been. I go to school again today. I'll be teaching college English this time. It matters not what year it is or how old I become. What I wear on the first day of school is important. And it's still exciting. Fashion and education. Who knew how closely they worked together?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Coolest of the Cool

As a proud owner of a 1960s heritage, I've always thought that we were ultra cool. But in my heart of hearts, I knew that the period that just preceded us, the 1950s, had us outcooled all over the place. As a child, I instinctively knew something marvelous was going on in design, clothing, attitudes and music. Now we look back with longing to that marvelous Eames era. My husband and I are lucky enough to have all of his parents' fabulous 1950s modern furniture including that iconic Eames rocker. They don't fit very well in the house we're in now, but someday they'll be right at home again as they were in our 1960s house in Denton, Texas.

So what does this have to do with patterns? Everything. 1950s clothing was so great. And pattern art takes us back instantly. Just look at Mr. Cool over there on the left. The blue sunglasses, the white trim on that jacket (which I know had to be white terry cloth), the bleached blond hair. He had to have a bachelor pad with great stereophonic sound. His favorite album: The The Music from Peter Gunn by Henry Mancini. Reading material? The James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, of course!

Monday, August 16, 2010

My First Vintage Project

After months of playing with, counting, drooling over and literally swimming in vintage patterns, it was time. Time for me to make something for myself. I found an amazing piece of cotton fabric at an estate sale and it just looked like a blouse to me. So I went through my stock and found this pattern (Simplicity 4080) from the early 1960s (Mad Men era). This is old sizing so even though I'm fairly small, I used a size 16.
And so here is the result:

I cheated on two things: one, I used an iron-on nylon knit interfacing which just turned out dreamy on the collar. Two, I used a nylon zipper. (I have plenty of vintage metal ones but they're just really heavy for this light fabric). I did zigzag the seams although the original pattern was cut with pinking shears. This would have been easier. I gotta get my pinking shears sharpened.

I was struck by several things. The fit was so beautiful on this pattern. The neckline in the back even has tiny one/eighth inch darts. Four front darts. Two elbow darts on each sleeve. Sweet! As far as alterations, I did discover that for the next project, if I use a size 16 again, I need to narrow the shoulders a bit (for this blouse I will add some small shoulder pads) and, of course, I did shorten the sleeves by two inches. (You read that right. I am a mutant.) I did decide to put the blouse together according to the original instructions even though I would have done a few things very differently. (The zipper in particular). But their way worked fine. And I even learned something about making thread loops (needed to keep that beautiful roll collar in place) from this pattern. I did wonder what women did about finishing the edges of those slash darts at the waist in the front. They are literally only about one eighth inch at the bottom. I zigzagged them which was a poor alternative.

I was really happy with the way this turned out. Of course, some awesome orange polished cotton capris to finish out the outfit would be good. Now to find the awesome orange polished cotton. I just happen to have a suitable pattern at hand.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pablum, peplum --What's the difference?

When I was a kid, peplums were a thing of the past. So was Pablum. And I thought it was weird that they sounded alike. Pablum was a brand name for a baby cereal. Sort of like baby oatmeal. A peplum is that ruffle thing around the hips in the pattern at left. I love this one because it's removable and it's lined so you have that contrasting fabric peeking out.

Why would you want to accentuate your hips and make them look bigger? Good question. Funny thing about a peplum. It actually makes your hips look smaller. I don't know how. Those 80s shoulder pads were wonderful for that too.

Peplums had another fling in the 1980s. Really, the 80s were all about looking good whether you liked the styles or not.

I'm not a fan of some of today's styles. I think we've lost sight of the goal of dressing well. Clothes were used to make you look better. To improve on  nature, if you will. A lot of styles today don't seem to improve folks at all. If I see one more outie belly button on a stretched tight maternity top, it will be one too many. How wearing a too small teeshirt makes a pregnant woman more beautiful is beyond me. It makes me feel sorry for the poor child who didn't have enough money to buy maternity clothes. Bra straps sticking out of blouses fall in the same category. Not attractive.

So let's bring back the peplum, the big shoulder pads, the full fifties skirts with petticoats, the coat dress. Any style that makes you look good!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

You Are Always in Style When You Dress With Simplicity

"You are always in style when you dress with Simplicity" was the motto of the Simplicity pattern company in the 30s. Notice the NRA blue eagle on this pattern. Who remembers the NRA from American History class? (And no, it's not the National Rifle Association.) Click on the link for a history lesson that's timely today regardless of your political persuasion.

This pattern is amazing. I love that cape collar. And the fact that the girl won the tennis trophy. I'm sure it's because she felt so confident wearing such a chic outfit.

It's one of the oldest I've owned. It's hard to date Simplicity patterns as they have no copyright, but the logo dates it to the early 30s. Unprinted, it shows you how to put the shorts and dress together with dots punched into tissue paper. The amount of labor and care that went into the construction of a child's play outfit shows you a lot about the life of a woman then and now. If you click on the photo of the back of the envelope, you see the complexity of the pattern. No zippers or elastic casings here.

Also take a gander at those fabric suggestions: pique, linen, silk shirting and tub silks. When was the last time you sent one of your little ones out to play in silk?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why Some Patterns are Worth $125.00

Okay, this pattern on the left is not worth $125.00 but it is listed in my shop for $35.00. How can this possibly be? It's original price was twenty cents!

It's called supply and demand. If you ask it, they will pay. And the supply of vintage apron patterns is very small. And the demand is very high. This pattern is in very nice condition with its original embroidery transfer intact. I find this one particularly desirable because of the wide Joan Crawford shoulders. The somber looks on the faces of the models is telling. This pattern is from about 1946. What happened in 1946? Women had to leave their fabulous exciting lives (okay, so being a riveter probably wasn't fabulous, but I bet it was exciting) and go back home because the GIs were back and needed their jobs. For moms, I think this was a great thing. I grew up in the fifites with all those stay-at-home moms and it was heavenly. But lots of women had no families to go back home to. But they still lost their jobs.

The demand for Vogue couturier patterns is also high (and the supply is low). Those patterns cost a fortune even when they were new. Other hot items are 1950s and early sixties formal dresses, lingerie patterns and the famous mens' Nehru jacket pattern which I've sold twice at impressive prices even with no envelope.

You may find this odd or even distressing. But this is America where a plastic doll which sold for $3.00 in 1959 can now be auctioned off for $27,450 in mint condition. (I had that doll, by the way. The very first one with the black and white bathing suit and silky fine blond hair. And honestly, I wouldn't trade $27,450 for all the fun I had playing with her.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Adieu, adieu

I must sadly say goodbye to my lovely French rooster friend here. I picked up this piece of fabric at an estate sale. I didn't quite understand. It was the only piece of fabric at the sale even though I found thread and other stuff. The family must have taken the rest of the lady's stash. Because no seamstress has just one piece of fabric. Or maybe someone else had already bought fabric. But they left the best piece.

This is a 1975 linen upholstery fabric by Brunschwig & Fils. The pattern is called "Cocorico" which is what the rooster says in French. The company is still in business and still sells only to the design trade and not to consumers. A lovelier piece of fabric you never will see. It just oozes quality and the pattern was so interesting. I could just see it made up into pillows and other cool stuff. Here's the whole view:

I have two shops on Etsy now. One for patterns and I'll be transferring all the non-pattern stuff to my new shop called Coconut Cake. So my shops on Etsy are both poignant and fun. Fun because I get to send people all over the world things that I've picked out and that I like. Poignant because sometimes parting is such sweet sorrow.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Knitting up the raveled sleeve

There are only so many ways to design a dress because it has to fit a human being. One of the things that all dresses must have is some way for arms to fit into it. Of course, you can opt out of the whole problem by making the dress strapless, but I think this is boring. In fact, I think most modern bridal gowns are boring. There are only so many variations on a strapless gown. So all you can design is a skirt. But sleeves give you so many different options.

So class, today's lesson is on lantern sleeves. Check the lovely bride and her bridesmaid at the left. A lantern sleeve fits tight at the top then has a gathered sleeve at the bottom. It seems that lantern sleeves are a new hot item in fashion. Look at this lovely blouse from Geren Ford. It's one of the most beautiful garments I've ever seen. The gorgeous wedding dress pattern in the photo is found in my shop here.

It's not necessary to have the wrist gathered in order for it to be considered a lantern sleeve. And I'm seeing them all over the place. Just Google "lantern sleeve" and see what you get.

So think on sleeves: raglan, dolman, leg of mutton, juliette, cap, batwing, bishop, pouf, bell and more. Down with strapless gowns! Up with sleeves!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fab Glass Dress

People who live in glass dresses should make sure they have really clean underwear. Seriously folks, this fabulous statue is in the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG to those in the know) in Corning, New York.  I thought that Corning became famous because of borosilicate glass (think Pyrex) but in fact, they became very important when they started mass producing glass envelopes (light bulbs) for Edison in the 1880s.

I personally love borosilicate glass and couldn't even estimate the number of food items I've prepared in a FireKing or Pyrex glass dish.

This statue and many other pieces of modern art glass and amazing historical glass made the trip really worthwhile. It's definitely family friendly. Kids and teens get in free. And there are lots of things for people of all ages to do.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mikey Likes It

I went to Lenox, PA yesterday. It's in the Endless Mountains, about fifteen miles north of Scranton. Absolutely beautiful. Stunning mountain views, cool air, and a ride with the top down in the convertible. What could be better?

Picking up more than 100 old patterns, that's what. I went up there to pick up a bunch of older patterns from the 60s and 70s. This was one of the real prizes in the lot. A mail order pattern from the mid-sixties, I'm guessing. The sizing dates it to before 1967 because that's when pattern sizes changed for the last time. This could be Anne Adams or a Marian Martin. It could also be Pattern Service. But without the mailing envelope, I can't tell.

Isn't this gorgeous? There's a fabric stay underneath the front part of the dress to give it more shape. It has a side zipper so that that gorgeous collar doesn't get messed up.

I showed some of the patterns to Michael last night. He liked this one. As always, if he likes it, it sells right away. This one sold in minutes. I might ask him tonight if he'd go through the lot tonight and pick out his faves. Maybe after a really good dinner...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Going back to the days of "I made it myself"

Long gone are the days when it was cheaper to make yourself something to wear. In most cases, it costs less to buy something made in China or Guatemala than to make it yourself out of American made fabrics. This is just sad.

There are notable exceptions. Kids clothes, like shorts and teeshirts, require very little fabric and can be turned out pretty quickly. But if your time it worth anything, it's usually more cost effective to go to Ross or T J Maxx (or a big department store sale) to buy a dress than to make one yourself.

The other notable exception is at the high end of clothing prices. If you're making a wedding dress, especially one with lots of hand beading or lace, you can also save money if you're really good at what you do and if you have infinite patience.

The items in this pattern (McCalls 8260) might be another thing that you can make cheaper yourself than buy in the store. (Assuming your time is not valuable.) Even this would require hitting a sale at a fabric store. You'd also need to know how to make your own bias tape.  But if you made not just one set but a number of these items, I think you could save a lot of money and have something really nice for your home or car. They would also make cool Christmas presents. And if you're like me, you really can't afford to buy the number of shoe organizers it would take to hang up all your shoes.

In addition to the closet organizers, bedside organizer and car organizer, this pattern also makes a two-sided wrapping paper holder, and an accessories holder with cool triangle pockets for your brollies. Now you can make up your own patterns for stuff like this. My daughter made a really cute bedside book holder for her dad. But this pattern could speed up your creative process.

Looking at a pattern like this makes me itchy. Itchy to make something cool that would help me organize my life better. I'm hoping someone will buy this one quickly so that I'm out of the itchy zone.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You Had to Be There--The Early Seventies

This pattern has a really funny story. My mom just found it in her house along with the first pattern I ever made and the pattern for the dress I wore on the first day of first grade. This pattern is unused. Evidently, I bought this pattern for my sweetie, didn't have time to make it up, and left it behind when I got married in 1971. So now it has reappeared.

I was listing this one in my shop late last night and took a good look at the pattern art. Check out the guy on the right. If you didn't live through the early seventies, it might be hard for you to imagine any guy you know wanting to wear a see-through orange shirt with funky collar. (Or a Davy Crockett look-alike top with rawhide lacing for that matter.) People talk about the sixties, but the hippie styles  didn't really hit until the very end of them. The early 70s were much funkier, in fact.

Anatomically, something very strange is going on with the orange couple. Both shirts are see-through and yet...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I wish I had a dozen of these

I wish I had a dozen of these patterns to sell. I had two without envelopes from a huge box of patterns I bought in Scranton. Come to find out, they're one of the most in demand patterns on the Internet. Who knew?

My price for the pattern without envelope was 20.00 so I'm assuming a complete pattern would be a whole lot more. They were snapped up at 20.00, let me tell you.

It really is a lovely pattern. This is not a costume. It's a fully lined, well constructed men's suit jacket. If you're in the theater costuming business or if you just need something authentic from a mythic era, I can see why this pattern would be something you just had to have.

Sadly, the picture does not show love beads. True, the one guy has a medallion, but love beads were really an important part of this outfit.

For one of the wildest Nehru jacket experiences ever, watch Peter Sellers in "The Party" from 1968. "Birdie, birdie, num, num." Way, way, funny.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Circus Time Suit

Another pattern I can't list in my shop. It's got too many missing pieces. The dachshund transfer is also gone, but there's a few really good pictures of it in the instructions. Someone clever could probably enlarge it on a copier and...But you see, no one will ever use this one. And that's too bad. I cannot save them all so this one might just have to go that trashbin in the sky where all incomplete, tatty, ratty and smelly patterns go. But at least, I have a copy of it for all time.

So look at the robe and pajama outfit. Doesn't that look like she could just climb out of one of those little clown cars at the circus? The dachshund on his hind legs with the hat on also adds to the circus theme as do the pompons on the girl's slippers. The other set of pajamas, knee length with lace sure look fifties to me.

Hard to date this one Could be early sixties. But there's that fifties dog theme. Poodles, weenie dogs, what's the difference?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fabulous Fifties

I'm so sorry I missed them. I mean, I was there but I was wearing puffed sleeves and ankle socks. I think I had a poodle skirt. But look at the skirts in this ad. The fabric swatch on the left has a wonderful texture and gold imprinting. The swatch on the right has real glitter glued onto the fabric.

How tiny does your waist look when you're wearing a full petticoat under your skirt? I remember my mom and other grownup ladies wearing skirts like these and actually remember being envious that I couldn't wear one of them. I'm still envious.

And those rich fabrics. Satins, shantungs, polished cottons, sateens. They were so beautiful. There were disadvantages of course with all the wonderful fabrics of that era. Lots weren't washable. But White's Cleaners came to our house every week, picked up our laundry and dry cleaning and then brought them back.

And the cottons had to be ironed. My mom kept a bag of dampened clothes in the fridge until she was ready to iron them. Mom liked ironing which was a good thing. She did a lot of it. She didn't do Dad's shirts which came from the cleaners nicely starched and neatly folded with a paper band around each one. But she ironed everything else. I eventually did some of it. I started on handkerchiefs and moved up quickly to pillowcases. (Yes, we ironed all our pillowcases back then. And embroidered them too. You could only buy plain white or pastel sheets. If you wanted designs on your sheets, you had to add them yourself.) And I too liked ironing. Still do, but I pretty much iron only when I'm sewing.

I have lots of these style cards in my shop and I'll be posting more. What great mementoes of a great fashion era.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


So I had the very first Barbie. You know, the one with the black and white swimsuit whose hair I cut off so that I could put her in a wig? Don't feel bad about my loss of investment. (I just priced a brunette one for 975.00) I loved that doll to death. She wouldn't have been worth a whole lot even with hair. I was also minus ten years old when I got her. Just kidding. Truth be told, I was a little old for her and my mom asked me specifically if I really wanted a doll at my age! But my mom got into the spirit of the thing and made clothes for her, which my girls have shared out so that the grandchildren have something cool and vintage to play with.

So, Barbie. What's up with the fascination? I cannot tell you. In my case, I loved the glamorous clothes, the itsy bitsy accessories, the grownup aspect. I remember saving my allowance to buy outfits. (Again, if I only had those today. Sheesh.)

I just found a cache of doll clothes patterns and some really cool Barbie ones were among the set. Check out the 1980s Barbie outfits. Actually published in 1991, it shows that the 80s didn't die a sudden death. There's even a pattern for gloves! If the pattern weren't factory folded, I'd have to open up the tissue to see what those pieces look like.

The other pattern is not actually "Barbie" but rather 11 1/2 inch to 12 1/2 inch fashion doll. Like we don't know who they're talking about. I did have some of the ersatz Barbies back in the day and they were really pitiful. (And if I still had them they would probably be worth enough to take my sweetie on a cruise. This is becoming annoying.)

This other pattern I adore. It's a pattern for making Barbie furniture out of foamcore board. I'm crazy about the chaise lounge. And if I thought any of my granddaughters needed one, I might have kept it for myself. But it's probably not sturdy enough for a four-year-old. I even considered keeping it for myself. You hanker after some very strange things when you're a pattern seller, let me tell you.

So Barbie, I've loved you for more than fifty years. And I don't think I'll ever stop. And I hope someone will adore her enough to take these gorgeous patterns off my hands before I decide I love them too much to sell them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rule of Fourteen

This "studio secret" style chart from 1950 tells you how to dress appropriately. You add points for every item you're wearing. Hose, one point. Feather, one point. Bracelet, one point. Gloves, one point. Veil, one point. More than fourteen--whoo boy, you are overdressed, you hussy. Less than fourteen--going for the spinster schoolteacher look, eh?

In short, you had to be just right to be well dressed in the 50s. I remember my mother had a closetful of purses. Dad could never understand that when you bought a pair of shoes, you also needed a purse to match. Even as a little tapper in the 50s, I wore gloves, petticoat, frilly socks, patent leather shoes, Sunday dress and purse to church. And I always had a hanky. On Easter Sunday a hat was de rigueur for all women including toddlers.

So I have to imagine the point system at work at Wal-Mart today. How many points for flip flops, an exposed bra strap, a bare and bulging midriff, a tramp stamp, a parole bracelet, etc. It's a lot easier to dress in the 21st century. But you know, it's a lot harder to dress well. No rules apply so you're totally on your own. And quite frankly, Wal-Mart attire proves that modern women could use a little more guidance.

This wonderful four page pamphlet printed on heavy cardstock is on sale in my shop. Check it out!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Fashion Frocks

Fashion Frocks, Inc. was a company based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Women sold their clothing by going door to door or by throwing parties. The dresses were reasonably priced and very lovely. The artwork is stunning. And I love reading about the fabrics and actually getting to feel them as those are real fabric swatches. A big part of some of these ads was devoted to the fabric and how it behaved. This was pre-permanent press and women were just beginning to learn about synthetic fibers. They still wore lots of natural fibers.

I remember my mother wearing clothes like this when we went on a trip to Pennsylvania in about 1958. I've never forgotten the full skirts and beautiful cottons. She looked wonderful in them. They were so flattering to everyone.

I'll be posting more of these photos in the coming days. These wonderful style cards will be listed eventually in my Etsy shop called Coconut Pie.