Sunday, 24 May 2020

May dress (Vogue 7422) - part 1

This month for the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month I'm making up this 1951 pattern in a striped seersucker which I bought some years ago one of my trips to Goldhawk Road. It's one of my UseNine2020 fabrics.

The blue is for the collar and cuffs

I bought the fabric with the intention of using it for a 1950s Maudella pattern which also has the bodice cut on the bias. However on closer inspection of the pattern I realised that the bodice fastens with buttons and buttonholes, so the 'V' of the stripes meeting would not have been in the centre but slightly to the left, and I didn't want that. So into the stash the fabric went.

Vogue 7422 has an edge-to-edge front, fastening with buttons and loops, and a panel underneath to prevent any gapping. I'm not going to extend the buttons below the waist, however, as to me it looks a bit odd. Instead I'll fasten the skirt part with snaps.

Envelope detail showing how the dress fastens

The first thing I had to do was alter the pattern to fit me. Because of my recent body changes, it had to be both sized-up and shortened, which made redrafting the bodice darts quite an exercise. I made a toile, and to my astonishment it was pretty much right - woot!

When I moved on to my actual fabric, it struck my that I couldn't remember when I had last used seersucker. I think it was in school sewing lessons, which is a very long time ago indeed. I wasn't sure if there was anything particular I needed to know about working with such a textured fabric, and most of my sewing books didn't have any advice to offer. Eventually I found the information I needed in Dana Willard's The Fabric Selector. This also included a reference to Seersucker Thursday in the United States, which led me down the rabbit hole of seersucker suits, and just when and how they could be worn. . .

Anyway, dragging myself back to the job in hand - I had assumed that the stripes on the fabric were symmetrical, but when I looked at it closely I discovered that this is not actually the case. The orange and yellow parts are symmetrical, but in the grey sections the lighter grey is always on the left.

Fabric close-up

I already knew that I would have to cut out carefully, to match the stripes, but this added another layer of complexity. Fortunately, becase the pattern is woven in rather than printed, both sides of the fabric are the same. This meant that I could cut out one piece, then lay both it and the pattern on top of the fabric, align the stripes all round, pin through all three layers, and cut out the second piece. Once flipped over, it should be the perfect match. I had worried about whether I would have enough fabric, but because everything was cut from a single layer, there was very little wastage and I managed it with a little to spare.

Pattern piece cut out once, and laid on top of the fabric

When sewing together pieces where I want the stripes to match, I found it easiest to pin along the white stripes. They are easy to see, reasonably spaced, and narrow enough to pin through the centre and be sure that they will match properly.

Pinning along the white stripes

I sewed the bodice back first, and all the time and effort spent in cutting out and pinning proved worth it.

Matching stripes

Can we just take a minute to admire this in detail?

Yes, I am pleased with this!

Seersucker is tricky to press without flattening it altogether, but fortunately I have recently made myself a seam stick. It's just an offcut of thick dowel wrapped in several layers of felt, but it's perfect for pressing seams open without squashing the fabric on either side.

DIY seam stick

The skirt pieces are on the grain at the sides, and somewhere between grain and true bias at the centre front and back. Naturally, I added pockets in the side seams. I was worried about two extra layers of seersucker under the skirt adding extra fullness, so I decided to make the pocket bags out of plain fabric, with just a strip of the patterned fabric at the pocket opening. Then I discovered that it is possible to ease out the puckers created by the weaving process, so I did that on the pocket strips to reduce the bulk even further.

The pattern doesn't call for interfacing at all. I considered adding it to the facings, and experimented with an offcut. Ironing on interfacing flattens the fabric completely, which I didn't like.

Pocket piece, untreated seersucker (top), and with iron-on interfacing (bottom)

However because the bodice front openings and their facings are all cut on the bias, I do think I will need to stabilise them in some way. The underpanel is cut on the straight grain, and I have applied a fine iron-on interfacing to it as I'm quite happy for this piece to be flat. The underpanel is attached to the left side of the bodice, and will stop it from stretching. For the right side, I will add a stay tape when sewing the bodice and facing together. There is also the small matter of all those buttons and loops to add!

Monday, 18 May 2020

Vogue and the older dressmaker - 1934 edition

Following on from last week's look at fashions for the older woman in the 16 May 1934 edition of Vogue, this week I'm looking at the attached Vogue Pattern Book. According to the article in Vogue, it "simply teems with good models for the older woman". Certainly, as I put this post together I realised that it was getting longer and longer; so grab a cuppa, make yourself comfortable, and let's investigate. Click on any of ther images to see a larger version.

Patterns for June-July 1934

Unlike Vogue itself, the Pattern Book has a table of contents. None of the features listed make any reference to older women: it is only the article in the parent magazine which suggests which models would be particularly suitable for 'matrons', and all the quotations in this post are taken from that. This is the first feature.

Fashions in evening and afternoon wear

Of these, S-3707 has "all the right points for the older woman", although there is no indication of what these points might be. This is case thoughout: no explanations are offered as to why certain models are suitable for older wearers and others are not. 6650 "would make an invaluable summer dress", and S-3713 "shows an idea the older woman should certainly make use of".

S-3707, 6650 and S-3713

Ingredients for summer wardrobes

Summer wardrobe suggestions include 6386 and 6527, "what could be better for mornings?", while 286 has "just the right softness and becoming lines", and 6553 and 6513 form "a classic suit good for any age".

Morning ensemble, dress, and classic suit

S-3685 is described just as "a printed silk suit", and 6663 as "for evenings". Although 6663 appears to have quite wide sleeves, I still can't help feeling that the ornate sleeves of 6617 (shown on the left) would suffer from being squashed inside them! Another view of 6663 is shown on the next page.

S-3685 and 6663

It's back to afternoon wear with S-2703, "a formal afternoon coat of the most becoming lines", and Couturier pattern 300 "a delightful tunic frock for afternoon wear". A rare explanation is provided for the inclusion of 293, another Couturier pattern; it is described as "a good choice for the older woman with too much weight at the hips, as the bulk of the sleeves would help to conterbalance it".

S-2703, 300 and 293

A printed dress with a matching jacket is described as "always a splendid idea for the older woman" - again with no explanation offered as to why this might be. 6611 had also appeared in a colour feature on new patterns in the 4 April issue of Vogue.

Different renditions of 6611

The two-page spread of suggestions for an 'inexpensive wardrobe' also includes yardage prices for various fabrics. (Please excuse my pattern weights holding the left page in place!)

Ideas for an inexpensive wardrobe

Of the patterns featured, 6627 and 6629 are both "suitable for the woman who is no longer young", while 6623 is described as "so good that it will be remarkable if every older woman does not want to carry it out in her own pet colours". The evening cape, 6502, "will appeal to the woman of any age".

6627, 6629, 6623 and 6502

There are a few pages printed in black, white and one other colour, but there are only four multi-colour pages in the 48-page magazine.


Only one dress on these four pages is deemed suitable for the older woman: a "good design for a silk crepe frock".

S-3708

"Jabot fronts are nearly always becoming to the not-so-young", and 6636 has "everything to recommend it".

6636 is second from right in the selection of 'little' dresses

Among the printed frocks and coats, the "older lady has still another choice in Ensemble No. S-3698".

Frocks, coats and ensembles

This is another pattern which appreared in the 4 April issue of Vogue.

S-3698 in black and white, and colour

Moving on to more formal fashions for afternoon and evening.

Afternoon and evening dresses

299 and 6633 "should be of special interest to the matron", while 6639 is a "specially good design for the many occasions when a formal evening dress is not required". However as it is described beside the illustration as having a "deep front décolletage", I was surprised to see it being recommended for the older woman.

From high neck to low: 299, 6633 and 6639

"The frocks on pages 26 and 27 and on 30 and 31 look charming on their youthful wearers, but a number of these would be equally good for the older woman".

Pages 26 and 27

Pages 30 and 31

6625 is another jabot-front dress, while S-3700 has "soft lines".

6625 and S-3700

6615 is a dress "of endless usefulness", and 6595 "with its crisp frilled front, will suit many women who are no longer young". (By now I am entirely confused. Are soft lines or crisp lines the look to go for?) 

6615 and 6595

6611 appears yet again, in the 'Easy to Make' section. Of these, all of the patterns on the left page, and the centre one on the right page, are deemed good for the older woman.

'Easy to Make', by 1934 standards

So there you have it. I must admit that at the end of this, I'm still not a lot clearer about what features the older dressmaker in 1934 should look for in a pattern. However, I'll leave the last word to the original article in Vogue, and the conclusion of its response to the reader who asked for suggestions on clothes for the middle-aged.

Avoid clothes for matrons!

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Vogue and the older woman - the 1934 edition

What little sewing I have managed to do this week has been more scrubs, and that's really not worth showing - once you've seen one set of blue scrubs, you've seen them all. So instead, I was going to write about a very old issue of Vogue Pattern Book, but then I got distracted.

In the 1930s, Vogue Pattern Book was not a standalone publication; instead it was sold attached to an issue of Vogue, which was then a fortnightly magazine.

May 16 1934 edition of Vogue, with the June/July Pattern Book attached

Looking through Vogue, I came across this article. (Don't worry, there are enlarged version of every paragraph below!)

Suggestions for the older woman

The reader's question at the start was depressingly familiar.

This was almost 86 years ago!

As was the answer.

Hmmm

So there you go. Vogue was just aching to feature older women but the fashion-artists would insist on drawing youngsters. And the photographers? Well, they just couldn't be bothered. Apparently Vogue in 1934 was such a minor, unknown publication that it just had to accept whatever artwork it was given, and had no say in the matter! Which seems unlikely, given that the author of these articles was at pains to stress that any artist wanting to make a career in fashion illustration needed to be aware that the requirements of the client were paramount.

Anyway, leaving sarcasm and venting aside, what was Vogue's response to the "matron's letter"?

The first recommendation

Crepe and georgette evening gown by Molyneux, worn by a countess

This reminded me of several of the evening dresses in the Tinne Collection. While many of Vogue's readers would not have been able to afford Molyneux dresses, they would have taken note of the styles, and looked for something similar within their own budget.

Staying with the evening dress theme

None of the four ensembles on page 52 have any maker's details, so I assume that they are purely imaginative.

The suit in question is second from the left

The next recommendation refers to the one illustration in the entire magazine which features an obviously older woman.

"tulle . . . is most kindly to age"

Evening ensemble by Alix

If tulle, despite its 'kindly' properties, isn't your thing then there is always satin instead.

Double satin

This wrap appears in a feature about a wardrobe of five(!) Worth ensembles ordered by the Comtesse Elie de Ganay, who was photographed wearing them.

Oyster satin cape with black satin lining

The article then moves on to daywear.

'Sporting' choices

The suggestions from pages 60 and 61

It's interesting to look at what other items of clothing feature in the colour spread. I can see why the outfit on the far right might not pass muster, but I'm not sure why the others are considered unsuitable for the older woman.

The full spread

As an aside, I'm taken with the idea of H&M being a 'name' in 1934, albeit a different one!

Henri and Mawdsley, of Conduit Street in London

Carrying on with daywear.

More suits and dresses

Only the outfit on the right is considered suitable: possibly the "corrugated ribs" of the jacket on the left were thought to be unflattering to the older figure!


Ribs and stripes

This dress can be "had from Harrods", but is also available from other stockists, including 'Elaine' in Guildford. I wonder what my namesake's shop was like?

Silk crepe printed dress

Finally, if you just want to refresh a dress you already have, a detachable jabot (another Mrs Tinne favourite) or collar are this season's way of doing so.

Again, only some of the examples shown are considered suitable

I prefer the examples on the left, but apparently I shouldn't!

The article goes on to state that the attached Vogue Pattern Book "simply teems with good models for the oolder woman", but that will have to be the subject of another post. (Now written, it's here.)