Sunday 29 January 2017

Dressmaking 60 years ago

Gah! I finished my course work on time, but then I managed to leave my camera at the university on Friday and can't collect it until Tuesday, so couldn't take any pictures of my sewing. (Much to the amusement of all my friends, I have a very, very basic phone, which doesn't take photographs.)

This meant a rethink of what to write about, as it had to be something which I could scan. So today's post is all about another of my old magazines, a copy of Woman and Home from 1957 (which handily has pages slightly smaller than A4 size).

The cover features knitting, embroidery and toy making

By 1957 Woman and Home seems to have incorporated Good Needlework magazine (I wrote about the Good Needlework Gift Book here). There are lots of sewing, embroidery and knitting references in it, and plenty of advertisements for knitting wool, but I'm concentrating on the dressmaking-related items.

Page three is a full-page advert for Singer sewing machines.

Obviously buying your own machine wasn't considered an option!

Further on there is a smaller advert for Pfaff. Unlike Singer, this includes a price (and how to pronounce the name). Although it looks similar to my mum's 1953 Singer, it's a lot more expensive.

This is £979 / $1232 in today's money

But it is electric

There are four pages devoted to dressmaking patterns, all of which can be bought from the magazine. Because it is the September issue, they are all for autumn fashions. This is the first of the double-page spreads.

Full skirts for a suit and a dress

Straighter skirts, and a full-length but unfastened coat

Of the 92 pages (excluding the covers), only 12 are colour printed. Eight of these are advertisements; although strangely one of the adverts is in black and white. One of the colour editorial pages is part of the other double-page dressmaking spread.

Bright colours for a winter jacket

Supplementing the pattern instructions

Of course dressmaking requires fabric. There are two separate adverts for Viyella.

Full page colour

Close up - includes suggested patterns

Smaller, and black and white

Fabric for £6.68 a yard!

But the advert which really intrigued me was this little one, tucked away at the bottom of a page.

No, not the facial hairs one

This one

I'd love to know more about this. I wonder how much was in a parcel, and what sort of lengths. Unless you were making clothes for children, a selection of 36" wide, 2 yard lengths of different coloured fabrics would require some ingenuity to use.Sadly although there is still a business called Celic in Bedford, it now sells beds, so I've not been able to find out any more.


  1. Love this! Thank you for scanning and sharing. I have a bunch of Australian Ladies Home Journals from the 50s and early 60s. The ads are my favourite part, followed by the fashion sections (the LHJs actually come with three or four patterns on tissue).

    1. Thank you Lyndle! Magazines which come with the patterns inside sound like an excellent idea.

      At some point I want to write a post about Bestway patterns - they were the firm used by almost all British magazines.