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?