Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let It Snow!

Looks like the chances of a white Christmas here in northeast PA are small. But I've managed to see a few at the end of my long life. The first one was in Provo, Utah a few years ago. For the first time in my life, I was going to see snow at Christmas. And guess what? No snow there except in the mountains. And that was the year that it snowed all over Texas! So it was snowing at home and I was missing it! In fact, it did snow a little before the big day and I was happy. Last year, there was so much snow in Provo that we almost didn't manage to drive from our hotel to see the kids!

As a child in Louisiana I was fascinated by snow because I had never seen it. These snowsuits were something I never could have used. I remember my cousin used to send down her hand-me-down clothes. Some were wonderful. Others in heavy wool were completely useless.

This DuBarry pattern is a honey from the 1930s. The suits have great features including separating zippers in front, a belt to keep warmer, a cute hat pattern and even extra padding at the knee for extra wear. And the cuffs and ankles have knit ribbing. A kid could have stayed pretty dry and warm in this outfit while out having a good time in the snow.

Nowadays I don't see children in snowsuits, even up here in Pennsylvania. But this pattern reminds me of a golden time when kids played outside whatever the weather. I love the fact that the boy has a snowball in his hand all ready to throw!

You can read more about this pattern here

Friday, December 16, 2011

Jackie Kennedy Style

Wouldn't we all just want to copy Jackie O's style just once? Sometimes I find a pattern that is so Jackie, I want to swoon.

I have a lot of back stock and have no idea how this one didn't get put in my shop before now.  You can find it here.The cape with the front button and notched collar just send me. And anytime I see a pillbox hat, I think of Jackie Kennedy's style in the White House. I was a very impressionable preteen and teen while she was the First Lady. Her grace and fashion sense will always be unequaled for me regardless of who wins presidential elections from now on.

What were some of the elements of her style? Silhouette for one thing. Slim, column dresses always make me think of her. Accessories like short gloves and those glorious pillbox hats, and a string of pearls on a black dress always bring her back to me.

And since we're talking about patterns, it is amusing to me how one person can define an era. When you look at pattern envelopes, you often find one person's look copied. There are a ton of patterns from the early sixties that remind me either of Jackie or Audrey Hepburn. There's also a time when a lot of women on pattern envelopes looked like Marlo Thomas. She even had her own line of clothing. Pattern companies weren't stupid. They knew that they could sell patterns if they sold you the dream of looking like a fashion icon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Dresses

I was bopping along the highway on my way to a newspaper assignment when "Jingle Bell Rock" came on the radio. Not any newer cheesy version but the original with Bobby Helms. And what came back rushing to my mind was the dress my mother made me for the Christmas party with my social club called "Belle Jeunesse" in junior high. It looked something like this pattern in my Etsy shop.

The whole idea of a social club for middle schoolers is pretty ludicrous. Not many boys that age want to dance. But all us girls went to the dances with high hopes of romance. The dress was red chiffon layered over red taffeta and it had a full skirt and a long drape over one shoulder. I felt like about a million and a half bucks. And I remember my mom having fits cording the waistline. It was beautiful.

I remember another Christmas dress which I had mom copy from a Seventeen magazine. It was fuchsia with a green band around the hem and wide sleeves. Very, very mod!

I guess it's no surprise I ended up being a seamstress and pattern lover if some of my most vivid memories of events are tied up with the clothes that I wore!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ah, The Sixties and Seventies

If you want to date a 1960s pattern, just look at the hem length. Look at this gorgeous Advance pattern from the early 1960s. The model's knees are covered! As the sixties progressed upward into the 1970s, so did the hemlines. First short skirts, then miniskirts, then microminis. At the very end of this trend, patterns had dresses with a shorts pattern added in since the dresses barely covered the panty line.

When I got married, skirts had already reached their highest and were on their way down in a dramatic way. Suddenly maxi coats and skirts were all the rage. I made a double-breasted plaid maxi coat with flannel lining. It was quite a project but I was really too tiny to find a coat that fit in the stores. And I was determined to have something in the new more fashionable length.

And really that was the beginning of a new era when women could choose the length of their skirts. My mother remembers how suddenly the skirt length dropped after World War II and how her mother added contrast hems to her pink suit that went in her trousseau. And in the sixties it was painful to watch older ladies having to choose between being stylish and showing off sometimes chubby knees and thighs or to go longer and look dowdy.

Today it's all good. If you want to wear a micromini, you can. And if you choose to put your skirts at a more modest length as in this Advance pattern, you can do that too. And if you want to wear skirts that brush the ankle, you can do that too. I hope that we never go back to the day when hem lengths were strictly dictated by fashion.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

1940s Fashion

I love the number in Funny Face where every woman in America starts to "Think Pink!" So my blog got a makeover for spring.

Today's pattern is an Advance pattern from the 1940s. I'm pretty sure this is a wartime pattern. World War II patterns are so interesting to me historically. The envelope paper is very cheap for one thing. Good paper was needed elsewhere. This one is in amazingly good shape considering.

And look at the styles. Remember that the skirts got shorter in the 1940s, a sacrifice women made to the war effort. It took less material to make a short skirt. And look at how conversative this pattern is in use of fabric too. A dress from the 1930s took yards more material. (But not as much as the dresses to come in the 1950s!)

These young ladies probably were not wearing hose. Silk was a high demand item for the military. So silk stockings were very hard to come by. Today women gladly go without hose when they're wearing dresses but at the beginning of the war, it was unthinkable to do so. My mom tells of how she and her friends used leg makeup instead of hose when they got dressed up. She says they sometimes even painted the line down the back of the leg to mimic the seams in hose.  In one of her most poignant stories, a boy she dated briefly at Camp Claiborne in Louisiana went off to war and was killed. His mother sent my mom her son's parachute. He had told his mom he wanted my mom to have it. My mom says she made lovely lingerie from that parachute silk.

There are so many things I like about this pattern. Look at that contrast panel and sweetheart neckline on View 2. And the lace trim on view one is just amazing. Even little bitty woman in View 3 is wearing a lovely dress.

But even though times were spare, women still wanted to look beautiful. I particularly like the hairstyles on this pattern cover. The flowers in View 2's hair are so beautiful and I think many, many women would die for that handbag she's carrying.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What I Find in Vintage Patterns

I don't know any other vintage pattern sellers personally. I've talked with a few of them via email. But I can tell you one thing we all share: a vivid memory of things we have found in patterns. I just bought a huge stash and here are some of the fascinating things I've found so far. Click on the first photo for a closer look. The ornament was in the box. But the rest were hidden treasures I found as I started to count pieces. They are:

A lab receipt.

I hope Stan and Steve didn't break anything in Chemistry lab in 1965.

Part of a 1939 calendar. A 1964 postcard posted at sea. The writer says she had a rough crossing. At first I thought she said that she had eaten "on land for every meal." But on closer inspection I see she was "on hand for every meal." A baby gown pattern made from a 1950s newspaper. One side has the classical and opera radio offerings, the other some fabulous dinette suites. And my personal fave, the baby shirt pattern made from the clipping of the wreck of the Andrea Doria which as you all remember sank in 1956. Oh the humanity! I think I would have chosen another part of the newspaper to use for my pattern.

And there are always the pins. Long pins, short pins, colored pins, safety pins. And I throw them all away. My neighbor was surprised at the waste, but they are all going to be either rusty or dull and there's no sense ruining a new piece of fabric on an old pin. 

Sadly, I could not find the sleeve pattern made from a wonderful set of 1930s comics. But I know I saved. it. I'll post it when I find it.

The bottom line is that these old patterns are  great historical documents, but so are the things I find inside.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake

Rainbow Brite shines again!

The Seven Sprites
For those of you who think Sprite is just a drink, this post won't be that interesting. But one of the most unique fabric trends was the printed doll era. These are all from 1983 in the big middle of my girl child raising years. Which is the reason why I still have the Strawberry Shortcake theme song running through my head.

One of our daughters had a Strawberry Shortcake doll that breathed fake strawberry smell when you squeezed it. I remember that she always brought it with us to take us up in the mornings. A very evocative smell.

I only remember the youngest having Rainbow Brite anything. She had the doll which was very cute. 

I just purchased a huge stash of Strawberry Shortcake fabric. And in the same box were these dolls as well as several Cabbage Patch printed pillows. Sadly, the Smurf fabric seems to be damaged. I may try washing it again today.

 You can find the Strawberry Shortcake dolls from time to time but the two Rainbow Brite ones  are too rare and fun to list in my shop. I have no idea what they're worth. So we're letting eBay decide for us! (Rainbow Brite Sprite auction and Rainbow Brite auction). You can follow along. As with any eBay auction this could be exciting or really boring.

 In other news, I've just gotten a box of sixty patterns, mostly for men, which I love. Look for a post on mens' patterns soon. And I'm set up to make a deal on 545 more patterns tomorrow. Can't wait!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vintage Fabric

Having lived through the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and the aughts, I can tell you that nothing defines a period more clearly than the fabric. Sure, we all want to use that vintage pattern, and some of them are really evocative of their era. But a straight skirt is a straight skirt in any era. And so, to create something vintage, you have to have the fabric.

This piece screams 70s. In what other era would you find plisse (this is a chemically treated fabric that puckers like seersucker) in a diagonal orange yellow and green print? I even have patterns in my shop that call for diagonal print fabric. I have to wonder what this was intended for. Pajamas? A dress? In any case, it's a wild piece that is really, really fun. From the way it wrinkled in the dryer, it's obviously 100 per cent cotton so I'm guessing nightwear was its intended use. I think I'd have trouble sleeping!

Or how about this piece? It's 36 inches wide which is a big clue. But it is also in the penultimate colors of the 1950s, aqua and navy blue. (The ultimate color of the 1950s would have to be pink.) I have a set of Fashion Frocks cards from the 1950s and these are the most popular colors by far. This gorgeous piece is obviously 100 per cent cotton (as were almost all cottons of that period). You can just see this one in a gorgeous tailored blouse or perhaps sheath dress.

 These two pieces of fabric are a pretty good contrast between an era of extremely good taste and one that was characterized by extremes and loud fashion statements. I loved them both.

I'll be listing these fabrics and more in my Etsy vintage shop called Coconut Cake.