Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ladies Wear

As I continue to work my way through the pieces, envelopes and instructions sheets of my new old patterns, I am blown away. What beautiful antiques.

But they're so clear. Seriously, peeps, if you can understand the arcane instructions of a modern pattern, you'll have no problems working with those of ye olde ones. They haven't really updated the technical language in about a hundred years, from what I can tell.


From 1965, Butterick 2674 is a ubiquitous sheath with a gored skirt. The jacket is optional! (I imagine that piece of marketing is somewhere in the instructions, complete with the exclamation mark.) This pattern is a size 16 1/2 (original pattern sizing), which means the envelope measurements show the bust is 37", waist 31" and hips 41". Unless the thing is small i.e. no pattern or fabric ease allowed, I'll probably have to do a bit of amending of the hips at least. But gotta love a bust measurement on a close fitting garment that will, theoretically, fit right out of the packet.

Awesome update: The woman who owned this pattern previously, put tons of notes all over the place, including one, faintly, on the front of the envelope which - if I'm interpreting it correctly - indicates that the finished garment measurements are: bust 37.5" to 38" (perfect for me!), waist 33.25" (gonna have to grade down) and hips 40" (also need to take a little bit away, but not as much as the envelope measurements would have me believe). Ya'll know how relatively easy it is to alter a waist and hip width vs. fixing a bodice for a full bust. I'll take that trade off.

OMG - other awesome update!!! - the woman left a remnant of the fabric she used to make her garment. It's a blue and brown geometric floral!!! And she either updated her facing pieces to suit herself, or she lost them and recut them - OUT OF NEWSPAPER PIECES. The journal used was "The Rural Lifeline". There's a small add that talks about the Dayton Power and Light Company, so this woman must have lived in Ohio! Oh, other update: She was from Fletcher, Ohio.

Let's reflect on this. Another real person with a real life expressed her sartorial perspectives with this dress, a good 5 years before I was born. We will wear it as relevantly as one another.

I feel overwhelmed. I want to make all of these gorgeous garments so much but I don't know where to start.

Have you ever had this sense when working with vintage patterns? Have you ever felt sublimely connected to another person on the basis of finished garment measurements and her lady-like script from another era?

I have to reflect and recuperate. More patterns tomorrow.


  1. Be careful! Remember, a full busted woman needs to buy patterns by her high bust measurement. I believe vintage patterns were designed for a b cup like modern patterns? So a pattern that has your bust measurement may be huge in the rib cage and elsewhere... I have a 38" bust but I buy 34" or 36" bust in vintage because my high bust is 34".

  2. I think all sewers can relate to how exciting this is. Reading through a vintage pattern would make nice bedtime reading!

  3. I'm just waiting for the day I'm gifted or happen to run into a gigantic box of vintage patterns. I know you enjoy yours. Have fun!

  4. M: I did think about that and then I decided it couldn't possibly apply to this pattern. :-) Of course, since the finished waist measurement is 33", the likelihood is there. I'm going to have to pay careful attention and muslin. Thank you for reminding me!

    Katy: It's too stimulating for bed reading :-)

    Faye: Oh, that would be SO awesome!

  5. How cool, I love when people's histories show up in weird places. :D

  6. I was picking through old coins with my nephew and his interest was mostly along the lines of "How much is this one worth?" These coins were Very old but also Very worn. I turned the conversation more toward where do you think this has been? How long did someone save this? to buy a new tool or horse or a pair of shoes? to pay a school teacher or a seamstress? It was fascinating to think about history that way and hold part of it in our hands.
    Enjoy your treasures!

  7. Touching history is engaging no matter how you come by it. This is so incredible! I can't wait to see it finished.

  8. I haven't caught the vintage bug myself yet but enjoy it when others do, and love this story of the woman who owned your pattern.

  9. I love finding pieces cut from newsprint. Especially if you can find a date on it ;). It really pins it to a particular date and place.

    I haven't had a really annotated vintage pattern yet, but I got several over Christmas with the same lady's name on, and, based on her surname and where they were purchased, she might well be a relative of my high school drama teacher. Which is a tingly sort of connection. :)

  10. How cool! I can't help inventing a history for old things - like maybe she wore the dress to her church pot luck or a 4th of July bbq... I wonder if she felt beautiful in it.

  11. E: I totally agree!

    Kimber: such good auntie-ing!

    Stacey: I know! I can't wait either.

    Susan: You are so going to catch that bug one day, and I'm going to love to read about it.

    T: I looked for a date, but no luck. Really makes me want to put bits of history in all of my patterns for the next (potential) generation. You should find your drama teacher and figure out if you've got her relative's patterns. So cool!

    Clio: That's just it! Where did she wear this? Can't imagine that Fletcher was the most cosmopolitan place... I hope she felt beautiful. Is she still alive??