Sunday, 31 January 2021

Style '79, again

A couple of months ago, I was able to indulge my love of 1979 Style patterns with a vengeance when I spotted this for sale.

Style counter catalogue, October 1980

Although it's from 1980, I reasoned that it would contain a lot of 1979 patterns, and it does. It's missing a number of pages at the front, but still provides some insights into home dressmaking history, and a whiff of nostalgia.

So, tackling the nostalgia-fest first. In October 1980 I was 16, and in 5th year at school (which in Scotland is the penultimate year of secondary school). We didn't have to wear uniform any longer, but were expected to 'dress smartly'. This was also when I really started making my own clothes. I don't recall making many dresses at the time; I made mostly separates as these were more useful for school.

I used this skirt pattern so often that the tissue fell apart at the tailor tack points!

3058, from 1980

This was such a favourite pattern that it survived various culls over the years. I never made the tie-neck version, but am tempted to give it a go sometime.

3095, from 1980

Clearly Style had a template for blouse pattern envelope illustrations! I owned and used both of these.

2580 from 1979, and 2408 from 1978

Finally, I also made this nightdress (the long-sleeved version, in cotton) at some point.

2533, from 1978. So. Much. Ironing.

The catalogue index lists 731 patterns in total. The earliest pattern in catalogue is 3734, which is from 1972 and is for a "nightdress and housecoat".

Eight year old pattern

The next-oldest patterns are for stuffed toys, items for babies and young children, dressing gowns, and smocked cushions. I was amazed that this last one was still available in 1980, as I tend to associate such cushions with the 1950s/60s. It would probably be popular now for retro decor!

4647, from 1974

These patterns are all for items which will not date quickly. The oldest patterns for clothes which are subject to fashion trends are these two.

4798 and 4909, both from 1974

Few of the patterns are quite that old, but nonetheless it's interesting to look through the catalogue and realize just what a transitional period this was. The photographs at the start of each tabbed section are very much of their time, as are many of the designs.

Hellooooooo, 1980s!

2936, from 1980 - it could not be from any other decade

But there are also patterns from just a couple of years before which, to me at least, have a very different, very 1970s aesthetic.

2520 and 2488, both from 1978

2087 from 1977, and 2440 from 1978

Sometimes the two decades exist side by side on a double-page spread.

2204 from 1978, contrasting with 2725 from 1979, and 2967 from 1980

The changeover isn't just limited to daywear. The batwing sleeves, looser shape and natural waistline of 2830 contrast with the slightly raised waist and more fitted form of 2077 - which to me is the archetypal '1970s sitcom evening dress'.

2830 from 1979, and 2077 from 1977

Bridal designs cover the two elements as well. The long, flowing sleeves of the mid-70s were clearly still popular - several patterns have them as an option. More contemporary styles, again with a natural waistline, were also available. It's also interesting to see that wedding dresses, even in 1980, still had a very covered-up look of long sleeves and high necks - possibly reflecting that most people still got married in church. Clearly the idea that wedding dresses Must Not Have Sleeves was still a long way off.

1204, from 1975

2890, from 1979

Meanwhile, half-size patterns were still clinging on, just. There are a handful in the catalogue, but none from 1980. 1979 appears to be the last year that Style created them, and although 2661 is available in half sizes, it is described as a "dress for shorter fittings", not a half-size.

2332 from 1978, and 1925 from 1977

2661, from 1979

Based on the patterns that I own, the number range for 1979 is 2562-2942. If you assume that all numbers were used, this equates to 381 patterns (some of the numbers in the range are © 1978). 143 of these numbers do not appear in the October 1980 catalogue, presumably the patterns had been discontinued by then. I have got information on 36 of them; either because they are in the Winter 1979/80 Style Pattern Book, or because I own them (and I must admit that, out of curiosity, I am now going out of my way to track down these apparently unpopular patterns).

There is no obvious trend that links them all, although a few are quite similar designs to other patterns which presumably sold better.

Discontinued patterns I own - perhaps V necks were unpopular

To be fair, I can't imagine many teens wanting to make these

Clearly Style did not hesitate to pull poorly-selling patterns; three eighths of the 1979 patterns were not in production by October 1980. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that the earlier patterns which were still in the catalogue were there because they were still in demand, even if they were not the most up-to-date designs.

2353 from 1978 and 2964 from 1980 - different, but both selling

In her History of the Paper Pattern Industry, Joy Spanabel Emery mentions that one of the reasons for the decline in home dressmaking was that patterns were regarded as lagging behind current fashions. In part this was true; it took several months to convert a style into a pattern. Looking through this catalogue, though, it struck me that the pattern companies' need to be all things to all people may have contributed to their decline.

When I did buy clothes in 1980, I bought from shops which catered to my age group. Even large stores such as C&A had by then created separate 'boutique' sections for younger fashions. The twinsets and tweed skirts favoured by the older ladies of Edinburgh might have been delivered in the night by pixies, for all I saw of them in the shops I visited, and the ladies may have thought the same about my clothes. Dress pattern sales had no such separation - all styles, for all ages, were in a single catalogue. Even if older patterns were tucked away at the end of a section I wonder if the continued presence of dated styles, there due to continuing customer demand, contributed to younger people perceiving patterns as being 'old fashioned'?

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Style 1462 completed

My 1970s slip is finished, and I'm really pleased with it.

Arty flatlay shot!

As expected, most of the work needed to complete it was in sewing on the scalloped lace - next time I shall use a lace with a straight edge! It looks lovely, but it was a lot of work. I started at the back, in the hope that by the time I got to the front I would have perfected my lace-attaching technique, and certainly my skills improved over time.

This was the method I used: 

First, I sewed the lace round the hem of the slip with a small running stitch along the upper edge.

The stitches are just visible

Next, I pinned through the lace and fabric on the right side at key points on the motif.

Marking the points of the motif

Working on the wrong side, I used the pin positions as a guide to roughly cut away the fabric.

First trimming

I took the pins out, and used my Carrickmacross lace scissors to cut the fabric away from the three 'bumps' in the motif.

The bump on the scissor blade stops you from cutting the lace

Then I used my curved blade scissors to remove any remaining bits of fabric which showed through the lace.

The cutting away fine-tuned

I had to keep flipping the slip over to the right side to check it.

Making sure no fabric shows through the net ground

Once I was happy with the fabric shape, I overcast the raw edge onto the lace - and started all over again with the next motif!

The raw edge neatened

I had a little bit of lace left over, which was too small to use for much else, so I decided to trim the neckline as well. This involved sewing tiny pleats into the lace to give it a slight 'V' shape.

Pleating either side of the centre bow

The various slip patterns which I own use different methods for neatening the top edge. Some tell you to sew a very narrow hem, and some use bias binding. This instructions for this pattern are to cut a long bias strip, fold it wrong sides together, sew it onto the wrong side of the slip with a narrow hem, then fold it over and slip-stitch to the right side. I assumed that this was an old technique which had been superseded, but it is used on the armholes of my peacock dress, and also appears in Vogue 8888, the most modern lingerie pattern that I own.

The only lingerie pattern I own that's still in print

It was difficult not to stretch the bias strip as I was attaching it, which of course would make it narrower. I must confess that I rarely tack anything when I'm sewing, preferring the approach of a forest of pins and a lot of hope, but I made an exception for this.

Pinning and tacking the binding to the top edge

The straps are made from ribbon, and I folded the ends over to encase the raw edges of the lace.

The neckline and straps

Posting photographs of myself in my underwear is not my thing (I have absolutely no objection to other people doing it if they want to, it's just not for me), so Nancy was called upon to do the job. It turns out that most of the walls in my house are a similar colour to the slip, so I had to position her in front of some curtains in order for it to show up.

Nancy modelling the finished article

I had expected that making lingerie would be fiddly: the fabric would slide everywhere, and there would be a lot of hand sewing. All of this was true, but what I hadn't expected was how much I would enjoy it. A second slip, from a different pattern, has already been cut out, and I have acquired a couple more patterns. I have even managed to combine my new-found interest with my long-established love of 1979 Style patterns!

Any excuse to acquire more patterns!

Of course, a slip doesn't exactly make a huge impact on the Stashometer, but it's a start.

Only 1.2m, but better than nothing

Sunday, 17 January 2021

My UseNine2021

I've made my selection for my 2021 #UseNine challenge - here's hoping that I can do better than my 2020 total of five fabrics used. I've learned from last year's big mistake, however, and chosen a wider range than just nine summer-weight fabrics. Of course, the four pieces which I bought last year but didn't use had to be included.

My 2021 choices

I have ideas for all nine, but concrete plans with actual patterns for only six. So, without any more ado . . .

The numbered version

1 - This is a lightweight cotton from Ditto Fabrics which I bought last year because - pineapples! I have a rough idea of how I want to use it, but that's all so far.

2 - I don't often take inspiration from pattern envelope illustrations, but when I saw New Look 6594, I immediately thought of this pale blue viscose remnant which I've had for a couple of years.

A perfect pairing - hopefully!

With careful cutting out (my specialism!), I should just have enough for view C. I think it's got a distinctly vintage tea-dress feel, and should work well with the drapey viscose.

3 - This was going to be my December 2020 dress before Life got in the way. Although at first glance the fabric looks like a heavily embroidered wool or cotton, it's actually a cleverly printed viscose, bought from The Dress Fabric Company on my Edinburgh trip in 2017. It had been in danger of falling victim to Special Fabric Syndrome*, but when I spotted Style 557 for sale, I knew that I'd found a suitable match.

I’m planning to make the full-skirted version

4 - This grey ditsy floral is another of last year's purchases, also from Ditto Fabrics. It's a relatively thick cotton, so suitable for a spring/autumn dress rather than a summer one. Hence, I'm going to make view 1 of Style 2887 - another of my Style '79 patterns.

There may be a slight tweak to this one

5 - By 'eck, black velvet is difficult to photograph! Bought at the end of last year, this heavy-ish cotton velvet is another fabric for which I have A Plan, but no concrete evidence to include here.

6 - Another photographic nightmare. This teal poly satin really didn't want to play ball; it was determined to appear a particularly unattractive sludgy grey! Much playing with filters was needed to get even close to the right colour. This is my choice for the first Sew A Vintage Style Dress Community challenge - more details to come.

7 - I've already posted about my plans for this fabric from Spoonflower, but here's a quick reminder of the pattern I'm going to use.

Making use of the stripes

8 - The only one of my unused 2020 UseNine choices to be carried over into 2021. I love this vintage-style crepe from Watson and Thornton, and know exactly what I want to make from it.

View A is the plan

I've even got the perfect buttons and buckle for the job.

Picking out the dark red in the print

So what's holding me back? Well, I suspect I've just been put off by the disaster that was the Dress of Frump™. It will need at least one toile to get that bodice front right.

9 - Finally, a very wintery choice - a brushed cotton. This is going to be used for view B of Butterick 6866, but with the two contrast tabs of view A.

I love the neckline detail

So, how many of these will I actually make - any more than five will be a win!

* - This happens when a fabric is too precious to be made up with any old pattern, so is put aside until something suitably special comes along. The longer it’s left, the more special the pattern needs to be to justify cutting into the fabric; and so a stalemate is reached, and the fabric just sits there forever. See also, the saga of the Anemone Dress.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Off at a tangent

It’s a new year, and I'm back sewing again - yay! I'm not short of projects, either. Last year's December dress is still outstanding, I've got some brushed cotton waiting to be made into a cosy winter dress, and there's also the first challenge for the Sew A Vintage Style Dress Community (the new name for the Vintage-Sew-A-Dress-A-Month, which has now moved to quarterly challenges). Oh, and I really should do something with that black velvet remnant before it creases too much.

So, am I cracking on with any of these? Reader, I am not.

Yes, it's happened again

Debi, aka Ms1940McCall, who makes the most wonderful vintage clothing (see it here and here), has come up with the idea of a monthly theme for her sewing and has invited others to join in. January's theme is 'loungewear', which she has expanded to include underwear. Which prompted me to think about a project I have had in mind for years, and make myself some slips.

I love full, rather than waist, slips: they have the same effect as lining a dress without the hassle of having to add a lining and, of course, one slip can be worn with multiple dresses. Naturally, I'm talking about the proper, old-fashioned, shaped sort of slip, not the modern ones which are essentially a tube of stretch fabric with shoulder straps. Without really meaning to, I have acquired a selection of vintage slips, mostly from the 1970s.

My slip 'collection'

The two on the left are both 'St Michael', which was Marks and Spencer's own-brand label. They are both too small for me, but I have kept them with a view to copying the styles someday. The other two are labels I have never heard of. The blue one is (rather haphazardly) made from cotton, and like so many RTW clothes it doesn't fit me well due to my short torso. Which is why making my own is the way forward.

These are the patterns I have to choose from. I own a couple of others, but they are for a 32" bust and redrafting to my size felt like a job too far until I know more about lingerie making.

Patterns from the 1940s to the 1970s

The Blackmore pattern is very fitted and has a side placket closure, which is more work than I want for this particular project, and Simplicity 9115 requires stretch fabric, which I don't have. I love Simplicity S20, especially the contrast cup details, but the main part is cut on the bias and so is a bit of a fabric hog, and I've got limited supplies of suitable fabric in my stash. Style 4905 and Maudella 4267 look as though they are essentially the same pattern. I decided (for once) to start with something easy, so narrowed it down to Style 1565 or Style 1462.

Reducing the choice to two

I was amazed by the difference in bust dart size between the two patterns. There is no suggestion on the patterns taking cup size into account, so I'm guessing that 1565 fits far more closely to the ribcage.

That's quite a difference in bust shaping

As an aside - Style had clearly not long moved to printed patterns when 1565 was produced, and I love the way that it uses the same markings as older punched Style patterns; for example the long oval to mark the fold. Obviously, Style decided to stick to what their customers were used to, but printed.

Sticking to the old punched symbols

In the end I went for 1462. It's very simple, so a good way to start, especially as I'm using a drapey, slippery, fabric. Also, my love of late 1970s Style patterns isn't going anywhere soon, so a 1976 slip to wear underneath seems like a good idea. I left the bodice section unchanged, and took 5cm/2" out of the 'skirt' length above the waist.

The pattern itself is straightforward. Join the backs together, join the fronts together, dart the bodice pieces and join them together, attach the bodice to the front, sew the side seams, neaten the raw edges, add straps - done. The trickiest part was attaching the bodice to the front: despite my best efforts it ended up slightly off, and with a minor pucker. If I make this pattern again (and I probably will), I'm tempted to experiment with attaching the bodice pieces to the front pieces separately, and then sewing the centre front seam in one go.

Smooth on one side, slightly less so on the other

I finished all the seams with a narrow, three-thread overlock, and was on track to have a plain but perfectly serviceable slip made up. Until I decided that it was a little too plain.

Usable, but nothing special

So, off I went to trawl through my laces and trims. I found a lovely scalloped lace which I bought years ago for a project, but in the end couldn't use because it was slightly too short, and the shop didn't have any more. It will look perfect round the hem of the slip, but my machine sewing skills aren't up to attaching it, so it will have to be done by hand. Gulp. I see a lot of box sets in my immediate future - and all those other projects may have to wait a while longer!

With the trim laid over