Saturday, January 28, 2012

Time Traveling

I received my Blue Gardenia package of vintage patterns, which I bought recently during the 30% off sale. Wow.

Those of you who know me well, know that I am endlessly fascinated by things of other eras. I love shopping for vintage clothes because I believe the pieces are invested with the experience of another time. Don't get me wrong. I'm not particularly nostalgic. I don't think that time is better than this time. But it was and there's an energetic current between then and now and I love the idea that those two times can merge in modernity.

Let's face it: modernity is just another word for tomorrow's olden days.

As I was filtering through the 8 zillion pattern's on Denise's site, I narrowed my search to those with a 36 or 37 inch bust; they had half size patterns back then, for petites, which is how one finds sizing in the odd sized bust measurement.

In truth, I'm not much into the 30s and 40s patterns. I do find some of them spectacular - and time was, the best vintage clothing you could find (and it was plentiful in the shops) was from the 40s. But I always feel I'm playing to type in the 40s silhouette.

I kept it to the 50s, 60s and 70s, searching for wearable items. Nothing frothy and delicious, but with limited application. I intend to bring these garments to life on a regular basis.

So, let's get started on the tour, yes? Today we'll focus on the earliest patterns I purchased.

The Fifties:

McCall's 9805, from 1954, will assist me in my very firm intention to resuscitate the culotte. Not as silly as a skirt, not as intense as a pair of pants, culottes are the perfect solution for a day on the town! They look great with boots, in a winter fabric. Cute with a short heel sandal or ballerina flats in spring and summer. They have not gone out of fashion. They've just been sleeping in the recesses of our collective memory. Admit it: you want some!

Intriguingly, this pattern is from the first wave of those made with printed pieces (see The First Printed Pattern imprint). Before this, pieces were made with perforations to delineate instructions. As I am, frankly, afraid of those, this is my kind of 50's pattern.

It's starting to occur to me that I was so fixated on getting the right bust size, that I didn't pay any attention to the corollary waist and hip sizes. Fortunately in this pattern, the waist is 30" and the hips are 39". Alas, for the dress below, the waist is 28". Gonna have to work on that.

Butterick 8628, also from the 50s though the precise year is not identified, is another printed pattern, a whimsical "quick 'n easy" day dress. Oh, look, it's got a cowl neck. What a surprise! While "quick 'n easy" - it's not "light on fabric". This thing takes 6 yards of 35" width. (There's no mention of 60" width fabric on the envelope. Did it even exist, back then?) The dress has a waist stay, which seems very authentic.

The bodice is cut on the bias, the way many cowl neck bodices are. Intriguingly, the construction of this bodice is exactly the same as that on Vogue 8413, the dress I intend to make from the Spring Basics Palette.

Do you suppose one has to wear a crinoline (or some kind of voluminous slip) to get the skirt to fall that way?

What do you think of these? Which do you prefer? Do you have anything to add about the pedigree of these? Have you had the pleasure to sew with vintage?

Next up, the 60s!

26 comments:

  1. ohgawd, I can't WAIT to see how these come out.

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  2. I like both, prefer the dress. Both could be nice just done as tops without the skirt/coulotte.

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  3. I love the culottes! I didn't realise they dated back that far. I thought they were more a seventies thing.

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  4. E: I'm shocked by the riches I have in front of me. I don't know how I will make all of these beautiful pieces and now I have to buy every other vintage pattern in the world. :-)

    Sera: True, but I really like the bottoms best of all. I think I prefer the dress too.

    Katy: I know, isn't it something. I don't know if they go back to the 40s - when women needed to be mobile, but were still constrained by the requirement to be ladylike in skirts and dresses. Hmmm.

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  5. Both are great, but that cowl-necked dress is particularly awesome.

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    1. I know, but look at Lana's (Anon) comment below. Seems a serious crinoline would be required...

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  6. I noticed two women wearing culottes last year in Paris -- in very classic iterations, if that doesn't sound contradictory. They were both in a fine wool fabric which only revealed the hybrid reality very subtly. In both cases, they were worn by women of a certain age and of undoubted class & taste. There was a definite sense of unassailable confidence in the wearing. I think, in other words, that you're onto something and I'd be happy to ride the wave having always loved the culotte!

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    1. OK, if chic Parisian women of a certain age are wearing them, I don't know what's taken me so long! :-)

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    2. I was surprised to spot these examples and I wouldn't say it's a trend yet. But I'll be looking carefully next visit. Meanwhile, your cool factor will ensure a wildfire spread of the garments across North America, I'm certain! ;-)

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    3. Hilarious! OK, you monitor Paris and I'll take over this continent :-)

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  7. I like the draped neckline on the dress, although the slight blousing at the waist would worry me a bit...

    I do think full skirts like this need some kind of petticoat underneath. They always look a little limp without. It doesn't have to be a huge crazy one---but something to give it a bit more body.

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    1. I see what you're saying. You know how, sometimes, you look at a pattern as you want it to fit on you - not as it would, potentially, actually fit. I scarcely need gathers at the fullest part of my torso, but maybe - since the bodice is so fitted - the issue would not be noteworthy. Also, with that mega crinoline, you're eye would be drawn up and down.

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  8. I am 71 years old and can answer some of your questions. Culottes were worn in the 1940s and probably in the 1930s. They may have been worn before then in the form of "riding skirts". If you make one, be very careful of the fit in the back. Both RTW culottes and culotte patterns tend to be made for people with very restrained buttocks. Culottes that are pulling into the crotch in the back are really, really ugly. You need a lot of room back there.
    The most common width for cotton fabric in the 1950s was 35 or 36 inches. 45 inch fabric was starting to be fairly widely available. I never saw any 60 inch cottons in the retail stores.
    You would need a very stiff crinoline to get the appearance in the drawing of the dress.
    Lana from Illinois

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    1. Lana: Thank you so much for your comment! What awesome info. I'm currently reviewing these culottes pattern pieces against a modern version by Butterick which I also recently bought. I intend to post more on this, but I'm so intrigued to see how the pieces look the same or different. I will be very careful to ensure that I've got enough fabric in the derriere! I will also compare both patterns against that of my TNT pants pattern - to see how my crotch curve works with those of the vintage and modern culottes.

      It's too bad I need a stiff crinoline for the dress. I don't know if I have it in me to wear one of those - sounds uncomfortable!

      And thanks for your feedback about fabric width. It's so fascinating to hear about sewing from people who have been doing it for decades. What experience you have gained!

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  9. Love the cowl dress and yes, a crinoline might be needed to get that same shape. If you are happy with a little less volume, maybe you can skip the crinoline and just put a band of horsebraid hair at the hem. I think I read somewhere (Gerties blog possibly?) that it adds a nice shape at bottom. I'm not completely sure though.

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    1. I totally agree about the horsehair braid. In fact, I just got some recently from A Fashionable Stitch because I sensed I would need it. That stuff is totally stiff plastic (that's how they make it these days). It's weird but I'm sure it would give a lot of volume.

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  10. Love the bottom dress without the sleeves!

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  11. I love the bottom dress with the sleeves :).

    I had no idea that cowl neck bodices are often cut on the bias, but that makes sense.

    You'll look great in both of these designs.

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  12. I think both of these will look great when you make them! Re the culottes, "beach pajamas" were very fashionable in the 1930s and featured long (to ankle or lower) culottes and a backless bodice - if you look at photos of women wearing they seem to be feeling very fashionable. Interestingly, exactly this (1930s) shape came back in the 1980s - so I'm banking on it returning very soon.

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  13. Miss C: Me too!

    Susan: Why thank you!

    Gabrielle: Fascinating info! I'm telling you, never mind long-standing analysis in fashion trends, I'm bringing this one back single-handedly! :-)

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  14. I love both of them! I actually have that dress pattern, and it will need to work it's way onto the queue this spring/summer!

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    1. How cool that you also own it. Have you had it for long? Where did you find yours?

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  15. Hi hi, brand new reader, thought I'd jump in with both feet and start commenting...

    I'm with you on being drawn to the 50s over the 40s. For some reason it feels like the 50s-70s can be re-interpreted in a way that feels modern now while still having a nod to vintage, but 30s and 40s ends up feeling more costume like. I wonder why that is.

    Personally I'm drawn more to the dress pattern than the culottes, but I still have a grudge against culottes from the 80s I think. I'll be interested to see how both of these come together.

    As far as crinolines go, I recently started wearing one more often, just for day dresses, and I love it. I have a chronic pain in my hip joints, and the crinoline is actually *more* comfortable to wear for me personally. You should give it a try, you might like it. ;)

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    1. Samantha: Nice to see you here. After my experience today, I'm not so fond of culottes either. :-) I'll keep in mind that crinolines can be comfy. Makes me more inclined to give them a go.

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  16. You can make a petticoat for fullness, as my dressmaker did for my wedding dress. Or you can also try horsehair in the hem. I have that in some of my dresses as well.

    And thanks for shopping at The Blue Gardenia! I appreciate your patronage muchly!

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    1. I do like the idea of the horsehair hem.

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