Sunday, 11 November 2018

Patterns of Fashion 5 - a short review

I'll confess, it's so long since I pre-ordered this that I'd forgotten about it! Which was good in a way, because it meant that when the postman arrived on Thursday with a packet I was completely mystified - and then thrilled when I opened it.


For readers who aren't into historical costuming, let me explain. Janet Arnold was a costume historian who wrote a number of books, probably the best known being the first two volumes of Patterns of Fashion. These books look at a number of women's costumes, usually dresses, held in English collections (I use the word 'English' rather than 'British' deliberately) during the period 1660-1940. For each costume there are line drawings of front and back views, and often a drawing of the interior, showing construction details. There is also a detailed diagram of all the pieces, drawn to scale on a grid, enabling the dress to be recreated. The Costume Society runs an annual competition for the best recreation: you can see the most recent winners here.

This very basic explanation really doesn't do Arnold's scholarship justice. My copies of Patterns of Fashion 1 and 2 are over 30 years old, and I've spent many happy hours dooling over them.

Janet Arnold died in 1998, leaving a large amount of unpublished research. Volume four, which like volume three covers the period c1540-1660, was published in 2008, with contributions from other authors. Volume five is published by The School of Historial Dress (details here), and moves away from clothing, and instead looks at bodies, stays, hoops and rumps from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Like volume four, the book makes lavish use of colour. (The first three volumes, reflecting the period when they were first written, are in black and white.) As well as period illustrations of different styles of dress, there are colour photographs of individual garments. There are detailed explanations of terminology, and of the materials used historically, along with suggestions for modern equivalents. X-ray photographs are also used to show the position of stiffening materials within the bodies and stays.

Terminology of stays

Traditional stiffening materials

Colour is also used in the scale diagrams, which makes details such as the different layers involved in construction of stays easier to understand.

Part of one of the diagram pages

Amid all this (welcome) colour, there is still room for Arnold's illustrations. Seeing new drawings in the familiar style is like receiving a postcard from an old friend.

Court stays and petticoat, c1660-70

At 160 pages, there is a wealth of information packed in here. I will leave people who know more about the period to comment on how useful the book is from a practical point of view, but it is certainly a welcome addition to my costuming library. Thanks to American Duchess for alerting me to the fact that it was coming out.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

#VintagePledge - into the 1970s

Way back in January, in my plans for this year's pledge, I wrote that it was time to drag myself away from the 1940s and 50s styles I love, and explore the period 1960-1989. I made a start with Butterick 4384 (1967), but I must admit that my next plan is a bit of a cheat.

The late 1970s (and early 1980s where I grew up, it was not at the cutting edge of fashion!) saw a revival of 1940s looks. Hair appeared in rolls, or pinned up with clips or combs. Skirts got straighter, and shoulder pads made an appearance: not the gigantic, have-to-go-through-doors-sideways ones of the later 1980s, just a more defined shoulder.

sort-of rolled hair and Vogue 1718 by Bill Blass, 1977

Another rolled 'do' in the centre, and padded shoulders - Style 2890, 1979

Hair comb and Vogue 1725 by Jean Muir, 1977

Modern hair but 1940s-style dresses - Style 2861, 1979

The pattern I'm going to make is also from 1979, Style 2912. Unlike 2861 it has no fitting at the waist, relying on a belt for shaping.

More hair swept up on view 3

It is also an early version of multi-size patterns, combining sizes 12 and 14. I'm a size 14, but the pattern has been cut to a 12. However because it is printed with both cutting and sewing lines, it was easy to just add the seam allowance to the larger sewing lines, and trace off the correct size.

Front, showing the dual lines and notches

I am making view 1, the long-sleeved version, and I managed to find a cotton remnant in a reasonably period appropriate colour and print. Style was my favourite brand, and I made up lots of their patterns in the late seventies and into the 1980s; just seeing that logo on the top of the envelope brings back lots of memories. So I'm looking forward to making this one - it will be a real blast from the past!

Sunday, 28 October 2018

A quick fix

Back in April I finished my first (and so far, only!) #vintagepledge contribution for this year, Butterick 4384. I felt at the time that I'd made it too long, but as it was a winter dress in a thick cotton, there didn't seem much point in spending time on alterations in the spring. So now that the weather has turned colder, I decided that it was time to fix it. In the end I took off 10cm / 4".

The original and the shortened version

I'm still not entirely convinced about the braid placement (and my hair still looks a mess!) but the just above the knee look is far more in keeping with the 1967 pattern.

Far more period-appropriate

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Yet another skirt

After over two years of fairly frequent wear, my sort-of-bouclĂ© skirt is looking a bit tired.  It's fine for lounging around the house, less so for being seen in public, so it was time to buy another remnant and make a replacement. There's not a lot to say about it, really. It's made from the same self-drafted pattern as all my other skirts. The black and white wool mix fabric will go with anything, but is far more 'me' than wearing black.

Perfect for teaming with this rarely-worn blouse

A couple of weeks ago I read this article, all about using the clothes which you already have rather than buying more. Most of my clothes nowadays come from either remnants or my apparently bottomless fabric stash, but nonetheless I liked the idea. So here the skirt is paired with a blouse which I've had for ages. It was a present from Mr Tulip, and well over a decade old. It's a beautiful, soft, garnet-coloured silk, and I've always kept it for 'best'. However it finally dawned on me that I no longer have a lifestyle which requires fancy clothes for going out, so I've decided start wearing the blouse regularly, and get some enjoyment from it. Plus, it goes perfectly with these shoes, which were a recent gift from my friend F.

The weather turned colder this week, which means that I can finally start wearing this fabulous 1940s cardigan from Crafty Elsie.

It works with a 1940s cardigan as well

I met her at the Howarth 1940s weekend, where she had a stall. Bought knitwear is always too long in the bodice on me, and while I am learning to knit, it's a slow process - both the learning and the actual knitting. Happily for me, she takes commissions. She has a huge collection of vintage knitting patterns to choose from, but I saw this cardigan made up on her stall, and loved it. As you can see, she made a perfect job of altering the pattern to fit me. The only problem was that it's toasty-warm to wear, so when it arrived in the summer it had to be put aside. It was well worth the wait, though. We met up again at Morecambe, and compared notes on our respective button stashes! The buttons she chose for the cardigan are just stunning.

Two-tone buttons in green

I did (ahem) somehow manage to buy a second wool mix remnant, so another skirt is in the offing at some point!

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Forties fashions, Swedish style - part 2

Here are the remaining pages from my winter 1947 edition of Modejournalen Eva. As before, click on any image to enlarge it. You can see Part 1 here.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Forties fashions, Swedish style - part 1

My latest vintage fair acquisition is this magazine from winter 1947, in what I think is Swedish.

I think that it is a catalogue of patterns. There are only a couple of advertisements, no editorial content, and a range of different illustration styles from flats through to detailed drawings. There are however back views of pretty much everything, so you can get a good idea of what the finished item would look like. So here are the first few pages, full of late 1940s fashion goodness. Click on any of the images to get a larger version.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Feathery fabric

I've mentioned before that as well as fabrics on the roll, my local fabric shop also sells remnants by weight. They are folded up in bins according to fabric type, and the 'craft cottons' section in particular has been responsible for a lot of my clothes over the years.

The last time I was in there, one of the staff (it will surprise no-one to learn that I know all the staff there!) pointed out a large remnant in the 'wool mix' section. It was an attractive raspberry/heather-ish colour, but nothing remarkable except that it was machine-stitched into 2" squares.

Move along please, nothing to see here

Once turned over, the reason for the stitching becomes clear. It is backed with black organza, and trapped between the two layers is a scattering of pink feathers.


I loved it, so it has been added to the stash. I had already decided that it would be perfect for a coat, as it is in effect self-lining. But it would need to be a simple coat, with minimal shaping, preferably no facings, and definitely no shoulder padding. Then I remembered that I have this.

Simple shape, and no facings

I think I may have found the perfect match!