Sunday, 29 August 2021

Reissue, reuse, recycle

I've long been interested in how patterns reissued by the 'Big 4' use illustrations. It started off with a Simplicity reissue, which I wrote about here.

Original and reissue - spot the differences*

Then, when researching my dissertation, I looked at the other three companies**. At the time I was doing this McCall's had dispensed with original illustrations altogether, Butterick reproduced them unchanged, and Vogue took the same approach as Simplicity - using what appears to be an 'original' illustration but is actually slightly altered. Not necessarily for the better, either; personally I find the extreme thinning of the (already slim) limbs in this example unnecessary and distasteful.

Slightly different hair and poses - and, apparently, a crash diet

I had always thought that pattern reissues were a relatively modern development, but apparently not. When I was looking at the Autumn 1951 Vogue Pattern Book, this dress in particular caught my eye.

Vogue 7453

Thanks to the Vintage Patterns wiki, I was able to find the pattern, and also discover that it was reissued in 1956. In this case, the reason for the reissue seems to have been the arrival of printed patterns (or in this case, printed and perforated - something for everyone!) Completely new artwork was created, although long white gloves seem to have remained a theme throughout.

Vogue 7453 and 9059, images from the Vintage Patterns wiki

This pattern showed a completely different approach to reissuing, however.

Style 1541, 1960s

I have failed to get hold of this pattern on ebay not once, but twice! But I thought that I had struck lucky when I spotted this.

Style 1189, late 1950s?

At first glance I thought that it was exactly the same pattern, just with different heads. I assumed that, like Vogue 7453/9059, it had been reissued as a printed version, with a coloured envelope and contemporary hairstyles.

Side by side, for better comparison

But when I looked closely, and also compared the pattern backs, I discovered that there was more to it than bouffant hair and slightly shorter skirts.

1189 pattern pieces

1541 pattern pieces

The most obvious change is that the dress on the left is now sleeveless, giving three different styles instead of two. The belt/waistband piece has been removed, instead there is a waist seam, and the detail at the left of the dress waist is round rather than pointed. Plus, the sleeves have been simplified, removing the small pleats at the bottom.

In fact, this not-quite-reissue is the opposite of Vogue 7453/9059. Whereas those had different artwork for the same pattern pieces, the two Style patterns reuse artwork for a (partially) different design. The poses are almost identical, and the accessories, the fur, purse and magazine, are identical. Clearly Style was a very thrifty company! Now, of course, I'll be keeping an eye out for further examples.

* - In the colour illustration the figure on the right, in brown, has a different pose and handbag, is holding her gloves instead of wearing them, and has lost both her hat veil and her waist tie at the back.

** - My inherent interest/nerdiness was helped along immensely by Gillian Rose's Visual Methodologies, which explains, in a very readable manner, just what to look for in images.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

The Stashometer takes a hit

I wasn't expecting to write a post this week, as there has been no sewing done at all. But there has been some sewing-related activity, as the stash has grown a little.


A while ago I was idly browsing Style sewing patterns on ebay, as you do, and spotted this.


It wasn't just a pattern; someone had also bought the material to make it up, put the two together, and then abandoned the project. We've all been there. (Well, I have. More than once.) The chance to buy some vintage fabric in a colour scheme I loved, and a perfect print as well, was just too good to pass up.

Pattern . . .

. . . and fabric (with tape measure for scale)

Clearly the mystery would-be dressmaker was fully prepared, as the bag also contained a spool of Sylko thread (dark lilac, since you ask) and a zip. Most of the vintage zips I have acquired in mixed auction lots have metal teeth, and a chunkiness which you now only see on tent doors and the like, but this one is nylon and perfectly usable.

Everything you need to make a dress

Like the blue and white viscose currently on my cutting out table this fabric, a medium-weight cotton, is printed off grain - which might be why its previous owner abandoned the project. But I shall pre-wash it, see how it dries, and decide what to do from there. This is unlikely to happen this year, though, so it will marinate in the stash for a while first.

Another 3.9m added

When I was showing my acquisition to my mum, I noticed a detail on the bag which makes the whole thing extra special.

Ooh, again!

Jenners was the department store in Edinburgh, where I grew up. It opened in 1838, but was destroyed by a fire in 1892. The new (fireproof) building was opened in 1895.

Jenners, seen from Princes Street

Interior, 1895 (thanks to thevictoriangallery for the photo)

Known as the "Harrods of the North" it remained family-owned until 2005.

Aerial view, including the 1960s extension

Going to see the Jenners Christmas tree was, for me and probably every other child who lived in or near Edinburgh, an annual ritual. It filled the Great Hall, reaching up almost to the rafters. How they got the tree in there was always a mystery - I remember Dad trying to convince me that the glass roof slid back, and it was lowered in (I was very young at the time)! If you really want to know, and to see just how massive the tree was, this video explains all.

The Jenners tree

For Jenners, like so many department stores, Covid lockdowns were the final straw and it closed last year. The building's owners have announced a four-year plan to restore it to its full Victorian glory, and reopen it as a hotel and new store - and they have promised that the Christmas tree will definitely return. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to making up my own little piece of Jenners history.

Sunday, 15 August 2021


I feel that there hasn't been much actual sewing on this blog lately. I alluded to the reasons for this when I made my tie-on pockets, but this week seems like the time for more explanation. My father has been increasingly ill with heart failure for some months and on Monday he died, very peacefully, in his sleep and in his own bed. After several periods in hospital, with little or no visiting allowed due to Covid restrictions, he just wanted to be at home. Thanks to the wonderful support provided by Severn Hospice, Mum and I were able to achieve this.

Although my mum crops up quite often in my posts (usually as the provider of vital fitting information and fixes for sewing fails), Dad has rarely done so. But he's been a huge influence in my life. I owe my creative abilities to both my parents - Dad was a skilled railway modeller - and my left-handedness solely to him. Albeit more by accident than design, I followed his career path of a geography degree and a working life in I.T. Dad could also be relied upon for practical things such as making the template for my hexagons quilt, and teaching me how to wire a plug*. Even quite recently, he was advising me on how to design a database for some research I want to do. I shall miss him more than I can say.

Dad and me, August 1967

Sewing will definitely be taking a back seat for a while, as I support Mum and deal with all the admin. (So. Much. Admin.) But happily for me, Marie and Kerry are hosting #SewVintageSeptember again, so I'm hoping that will inspire me to pick up my needle once more next month.

* - When I was younger, electrical appliances were often sold without a plug, just with a length of cable sticking out. You bought the plug separately (usually from Woolworths, as I recall), and attached it yourself. In the summer before I went to university Dad sat me down and informed me that he was going to show me how to do this, and that I was going nowhere until I could demonstrate that I could safely attach a plug to any kettles, lamps etc. that I might be buying once I'd left home!

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Seven decades ago

I've had no time for any sewing at all this week, so instead, I'm looking at another of my old copies of Vogue Pattern Book. This one is the August/September 1951 issue, so is exactly 70 years old.

The change of seasons is the main theme of the issue, although there are a few other articles. The first, and longest, feature is titled "Summer into autumn", and features patterns for 'town clothes' in crêpe, satin, silk jersey, wool jersey, faille, and sheer silk. One of the suggestions for wool jersey, 7444, is also the cover image.

Vogue Pattern Book, August-September 1951

I must admit that one of the first things I noticed about the cover was the puckered crown of the hat (once a hatmaker, always a hatmaker). On the photograph inside the magazine, however, the puckers have mysteriously vanished. I wonder if the black and white version had been tinkered with a little, but it was too complicated to do the same with the colour image?

The miraculously improved hat

Amid the choices for silk jersey, 7228 is described as "For the older woman". Even though Mrs Exeter had been appearing in Vogue for a couple of years by 1951, it seems as though she hadn't yet made her way into the pattern book.

L to R - 7352, 7362, 7228

There are no references to older women in the four-page feature "Designed to be slimming", and nor are there any illustrations of figures which might need such help. 7443 is described as "particularly flattering to the not-very-slender", which prompted my mum to comment, "She looks pretty blooming slender to me already"!

L to R - 7443, S-4214

The 'Vogue's-eye view' of fashion is also apparent in a short piece on the 1951 National Sewing Contest. One section of this was won by Mrs Irene Basford of Birkdale, who made up a Vogue Paris Original Schiaparelli pattern, 1098.

1098, taken from Pinterest. Photographed in Paris, of course!

Either Mrs Basford was publicity-shy, or she was not considered Vogue material, as the photograph of her wearing her creation is severely cropped.

The mysterious Mrs Basford

Returning to the autumnal theme, "Now - and later" features clothes which can be worn with or without a coat, as the weather cools.

Colourful images for autumn . . .

. . . and a more restrained palette

These include S-4214 "specially designed on softer lines for the older woman" and 7414 which creates "an illusion of slimness for the not-so-slender".

L to R - 630, S-4214, 7414

The feature "Packing for an autumn holiday" offers suggestions for suits, separates, and dresses for sightseeing.

Holiday suits

The green dress in the centre of the right page looked familiar, although the fabric suggestion of shantung is far more formal than the seersucker I used for my version.

Holiday separates and dresses

Also on the side of formality, the final packing suggestion is an evening dress - something which I have never needed on any holiday, at any time of year!

Never part of my packing plans

Vogue Pattern Book readers seemed to attend a lot of cocktail parties, if the number of cocktail dresses and related clothes featured in the issue is anything to go by. Among others, 7155 is described as a jacket "for cocktails or evening wear", while 7208 and 7391 are cocktail dresses in faille and taffeta respectively. That all three appear in a section on maternity wear suggests that pregnancy, like a lot of other things, was very different 70 years ago!

For the cocktail-quaffing mother-to-be (don't try this at home!)

Sunday, 1 August 2021

New Look 6594 - battling on

I've not had much time for sewing this week, and what little I have had has not been a soothing experience. New Look 6594 still feels like the dress that doesn't want to be made. I took the bodice toile for a second opinion, and Mum confirmed my suspicion that the shoulder seam needed to be shortened by about ½". Very odd, given that the sleeves of New Look 6093 (which I was wearing at the time, to show Mum the finished article) are fine, and I assume that both patterns are from the same sloper. Anyway, I redrew the upper armscye, and lengthened the sleeve head to compensate.

Shoulder-fitting mysteries of New Look!

Then it was on to the dreaded skirt. I left the front as it was, but at the back I added some extra width and a second set of waist darts, to accommodate my sway back. And . . . it worked! The end result might be over-generous if I make the pattern up in a stiff cotton, but in the drapey viscose I'm using for this version, it should be fine. Another possibility would be to not sew the darts at all, but leave them as soft pleats instead. New Look patterns are always short on me (or possibly, just designed for people who wear their skirts shorter than I do), so I ended up with a skirt length somewhere between views A and C.

Going between floor length and New Look's idea of knee length

I machine-basted a spare zip into the toile, so that I could check how easily I could get the thing on and off. The zip I used was slightly longer than the one recommended on the pattern (40cm/16" instead of 35cm/14") and this definitely made things easier, and did away with the need to add a front opening.

It's been a battle to get a pattern I'm happy with, but worth the effort. I also felt much better once I discovered that I wasn't alone in my struggles; other people have come close to giving up with this design as well.

Nancy modelling toile number two

The fabric I planned to use was one of my UseNine2021 choices, and had been bought as a remnant. It turned out to be 133cm/52" wide which, along with my between-views skirt length, meant that I had to devise my own cutting layout. Not a problem, I thought, I do this all the time. Then I took a close look at the fabric.

Rude words were said

It had obviously warped during the printing process, and the horizontal element of the design is off-grain. The photograph shows one of the worst areas, but the sloping effect is not consistent across the full width of the fabric - and in one place it even briefly slopes in the opposite direction! Because it's such a drapey fabric, I decided to risk ignoring the crosswise grain, and work with the pattern instead. I cut across the full width following a line of the motifs, and laid it out on my cutting table, ready to start pinning on the pattern pieces.

More rude words were said

Those weird bubbles won't go away, no matter how much I try to smooth them down. It's some sort of manufacturing fault, and as a result it is impossible to keep the rows of the design horizontal, even across a single pattern piece. This clearly explains why it was being sold as a remnant - a case of 'buyer beware'!

Wisely or not, I've decided to carry on. I do really like the pattern, and am already thinking about versions I could make with other fabrics in my stash. So I'm treating this version as a wearable (albeit only at home) toile, and using it as a way to fully test the design, and to liberate some problematic fabric from my stash at the same time.