Monday, September 15, 2014

Sewing a Vintage Style Wardrobe: the 49er Plaid Jacket from Vintage Pendleton


I love those vintage 49er wool plaid jackets from the 1950's Pendleton ads. When summer winds down, a vintage style wardrobe can be inspired by the ads and articles in fashion magazines from past decades. Pendleton's 49er jacket were widely popular during the middle of the century, but its classic lines, color and fit are terrific as a new vintage inspired wardrobe addition.


This advertisement from the autumn of 1956 would be perfect to sew for this year's vintage inspired look. It is a very simple shirt jacket, with easy to sew details: four black shell buttons up the front with a convertible collar, long sleeves with cuffs, and a back yoke with small gathers. All of this can be topstitched to keep its shape.


Most of these jackets were shown belted. This ad from the winter of 1953 featured low set patch pockets cut on the bias, that sit below that belt. The convertible collar has longer points, and easily creates an open neckline above the larger scale four button front. The roomy sleeves have buttoned cuffs. From the back view, there is a back yoke with modestly gathered shirt body sewn to that.

Finding a current pattern with this style in women's patterns is not easy. While a convertible collared blouse has been considered a classic, right now the larger pattern companies are not featuring this style. Working from a Palmer/Pletsch sewing pattern may be the best option. Where I may have to alter that pattern is to create a higher sleeve cap, because I want the classic 49er shoulder. The sleeve should be shaped with a higher shoulder so that it hangs straight from the shoulder. Another feature in the original 49er is a front tuck in the jacket armhole that releases bustline fullness at about mid-armhole in front. A more modern fit solution is a side dart.



McCall's 6942 is the nearest in style to the 49er. It has the same convertible collar, back shoulder yoke, cuffed sleeves, and center front buttons without a placket. This means that the bias cut patch pockets will need to be drafted, and the back pleat at the yoke will need to be converted to gathers across that seamline.

This pattern may be too large in scale for smaller women's sizes. It also should be checked for the sleeve shape. I might alter the armhole and insert a more fitted sleeve with cuff from another sewing pattern (I must have a few patterns around with that sleeve). If the sleeve pattern is used, I would tape together the extra sleeve seam that creates that cuff placket and sew a more traditional cuff placket.

Two other patterns caught my eye: McCall's 5992, a PJ top with the right shape, and NewLook 6963, a shirt pattern with a more fitted body, high sleeve cap and back yoke. This pattern would need the sleeve lengthened and a cuff added (or substitute in a similar sleeve with those details). The back yoke probably rolls around towards the front more than the original does, but that might not be a problem.

With several different plaid variations, it's possible to sew up several to wear this fall. I also think this easy to sew shirt jacket would be a good pattern to use for making up holiday gifts that any vintage lover would want to own.

Read more about this famous shirt jacket by Pendleton, HERE.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Milena Pavlovic Barilli: Hanes Hosiery, Fashion Illustration of the 1940's


Fashion illustrations are part of what makes women's fashion magazines of the mid-century era wonderful. Tucked into those issues are advertising illustrations that surpass most of what we see today in the media and advertising. This artwork, influenced by Surrealism, was painted for Hanes hosiery by Milena Pavlovic Barilli (a talented artist who has gained more presence in recent years on the internet).

"Hanes no-seam stockings, sheer beauty from every angle", Milena Pavlovic Barilli, 1944: Hanes

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Let's Talk About: Visual Timeline of 1950's Fashion


1950's fashion has a wide range of styles, silhouettes and hem lengths. Trying to sort all of this out can be confusing. This visual time line shows fashion as it slowly changes over the decade. The images I used are from that era: no costumes or drawings are included. Most are day wear outfits. All are shown from head to toe, so the true sense of proportion is easy to see. These fashions come from popular sources, brands and labels that were what women actually bought and wore. Evening wear is not emphasized, and this shows the more popular styles worn daily by women.

This visual timeline can be used to date a vintage dress or outfit, by locating the best photos for a comparison. This also can be used as a reference in dating photos, however keep in mind the subject's intention: are they wearing their best, or some old dress to do house work in? It can also be used when putting together costumes or outfits that should look like the 1950's.

These are images of popular fashion styles as worn during each era by the majority of women. High fashion or historic fashion events are not included, rather it shows what many American wore during that time.

When using this, keep in mind that many women wore fashion silhouettes that might have been a new idea 5 years earlier, so not all people wore the most current fashion trend. This is why you will see here a blending in 1955 of the previous silhouettes, worn with a few of the new "A" line silhouette. It took a few years for that "A" line look to be more widely accepted.


In the early years, two styles were most common: a narrow skirt or a full skirt. This early full skirt is not extremely wide. The body in both dresses and suits was fit smoothly with darts or seam lines often like a corset. Three quarter sleeve lengths worn with long gloves were the most common suit look. All hemlines are at the mid-calf level.


The skirt styles shown here are the widest silhouettes that were seen during the 50's. This look was worn for several years, overlapping the "A" line skirts that began to appear in the second half of the decade. After 1955 many full skirts showed decreasing width, becoming softer in silhouette.


This set of styles show slender dresses and suits that have a natural waistline with an hour glass or corset shape. The suit jackets fit close to the body and have hip length hemlines. The skirts come to mid-calf length. In 1955 there was a new trend towards and "A" line silhouette in both skirt and dress shape. While it was not widely adopted that year, it does appear in a wider pleated skirt.


The later half of the 50's decade saw a swing away from the corset fitting bodice and into a softer or lightly draped silhouette. New suits had boxy jackets that are not formed with heavy tailoring or structure. Fabrics started to have more texture, with mohair wools and other soft looks.


At the decade's end, the "A" line silhouette had begun to fill in most wardrobes. It was worn shorter, at the bottom of the knee, so it seemed younger and more sporty. This linear look inspired all layers of fashion, and can be seen in suits, coats, dresses and skirts. All seem to have a lean, flared, clean and smooth look.


The end of the 1950's was a transitional fashion era. Many of the styles popular during previous years were still being advertised, sold, and worn, however the "A" line look affected those silhouettes as well. Both wide skirts and slender sheath dresses were available, along with the new empire or high waistlines.

Using these slides are reference, it's possible to get a better understanding of the progression of fashion styles through out the 1950's decade. All images were sourced from my own library of magazines and books. Nearly all are from advertising, showing American fashion designs that were produced in the US for middle class households. This shows most clearly how the hourglass silhouette was replaced by the "A" line silhouette over the course of a decade.

This original article on fashion is part 11 of an educational series on Fashion Design called "Let's Talk About:" that is original to Pintucks.

The contents of this article are the intellectual property of this blog. Please do not copy any content or images to another blog or digital media without contacting me first. I will ask that you link back to this article and give reference to this source within your feature. If you are using content or images for a research paper or project, please link back to this page in the traditional academic format, thank you!



Friday, August 8, 2014

4 Sewing Books to Add to Your Sewing Library



This set of four books was chosen for it's range, appeal to all skill levels, and quality of illustration and visuals. These are also new enough to be valid with current sewing machines and most modern textiles. Learning to refer to a quality resource such as these will make any sewing project go more smoothly and with more professional results.

"Why a sewing book? Can't I just use the pattern instructions?" Pattern companies don't include detailed instructions with sewing patterns. While they may suggest a process for construction or what to do first, second and third, they assume the person sewing knows how to sew each technique mentioned. Having a sewing manual will give you step-by-step help when using a sewing pattern.

"Can't I just go online and find the answer there?" Online resources vary from professional educators sharing online with their students, to first time users offering flawed and incomplete advice. Books have editors who make sure that the content is correct. This will save you from wading through the inaccurate technical advice online, and provide a consistent method of sewing.


If you learned to sew in the late 1960's, you no doubt may own one or both of these books. The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (upper right) is probably the best book on techniques ever published, and while it continues to be edited and published today, it is the older editions, crammed with clearly detailed drawing that make it an all time favorite, first published in 1976. Those early editions include a good chapter on men's tailoring as well as all the basics, including pages on textiles. More recent versions leave out many techniques in favor of big colored photos and simple 'how to' projects. Both costumers and fashion students rely on this hefty book for it's endless coverage of nearly every technique imaginable.

Less comprehensive, The Vogue Sewing Book, (lower left)was designed for more advanced dress making projects, and was known for it's 'couture' techniques. The back end also covers men's tailoring, and the front sections are devoted to showing alterations, style tips and fabric glossary. The first edition was published in 1970.


These two sewing manuals are more recent publications. The Vogue/Butterick: Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques (left)was published in 1989, and carries on the tradition of step-by-step illustrations to guide the sewist through specific techniques. The drawing are large, clear and have simple descriptions. Unique to book organization, the processes are arranged alphabetically, rather than by method or topic. This publication has had several editions, sometimes with name changes, but it is worth seeking one out, even the oldest ones like this.


Singer: Sewing Step-by-Step (upper right) was an innovative publication in its day, due to the inclusion of many fine tuned photos, rather than drawings or diagrams, that illustrated the sewing techniques. Published in 1990, it was part of a huge project under the Singer name to produce a wide range of step-by-step books on a many sewing topics. You will often find other books from this series, and all are worth owning.

Content for this Step-by-Step tries to cover alot of territory, so it is not a deep study of sewing, more a good companion for the newer sewist. Topics such as: activewear, tailoring and heirloom sewing are included. For those new to sewing, the photos are a big help, and answer many questions that a drawing might not. A large portion of the book is dedicated to home decorating projects, a good move on their part because this was becoming the newest trend in home sewing. So if you are also seeking some tips for curtains, drapes, and bed coverings, this publication may be helpful.

While it's impossible to specify only four great sewing books, I will put these up as four of the best sewing books published since 1970. Why 1970? That was probably the 'Golden Era' of home sewing. Using domestic sewing machines that were available with zig-zag and could sew knits, it was possible to create nearly anything desired. These sewing books were introduced into classrooms, workshops and sat on nearly every living room bookcase, and all four have value today for current sewing projects.

Do I have other books that I like to use? Yes, of course. I find that the pre-1970 sewing texts have a charm and provide insight into techniques we don't use often today, but might if we knew more about them. I will share some of those in another post. As for new books, I have used some, especially those published by the major textbook companies that are worth owning as well, so I will share those later too.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

6 EASY TO SEW Shift Dresses


Finding a good easy to sew dress pattern for a new sewist can be frustrating. The styles can be bland and boring or the pattern design is really alot more complicated that it looks. Here are six dresses that can get someone new to sewing started with a dress that is cute, fashionable and fun to sew.

This blog post started with a letter asking me if I knew of a sewing pattern that might make up into a dress currently sold online. I took a look at the dress (by Jones New York) and saw that it is a perfect style for anyone to sew.


The basic silhouette is a loose fitting shift style (not fitted by darts or seam lines), and there are no set-in sleeves to worry about. The design has great 'blocking' with stripes used on the horizontal at the hem and shoulders, while they are vertical in the torso (how flattering!). I also like the idea of sewing a loose fitting shift dress as a first project because often the back zipper can be eliminated, making it a 'pull-over' style. The horizontal seam lines in the skirt and upper body will need to be added to some patterns.  Here are the best six sewing patterns to choose from.


The two dresses above stood out as being most like the original dress: Butterick 5211 and Vogue 1300. The Butterick dress is just about perfect for this project as it already shows a horizontal seam across the upper body, no back zipper, and short 'kimono' sleeves. Very similar, the Vogue dress has shorter 'sleeves'. The front cascade ruffle on this pattern can be eliminated by taping the two front pieces together to make a single front pattern piece. Both patterns will need to have the hem panel cut across the lower skirt.


A more curvacious figure will probably look better with bustline darts. These two patterns include those fitting darts. The pattern at the right, Vogue 8805 is ready to go, with both hem panel and upper body seams. The 'shoulder width' may be cut back to create a short sleeve if desired. McCalls 6465 on the left also has a hem panel. It differs in that set-in sleeves are used. The fit of a set-in sleeve is closer to the body and may appeal to someone who wants a more controlled fitting shift silhouette. Both have a seamless back and don't require a zipper.


These two dresses show vertical seam lines that will create a closer fitting dress that can be used for color blocking, but will not be suitable for stripes because of the several seams down the front.. Clearly they are for a more experienced sewist, Vogue 1390 and 8786. The style of 1390 still shows a strong horizontal banding at hem and shoulder, while it has vertical seam lines to create a better fit for more sizes. Vogue 8786 shows classic princess seam lines from a shoulder yoke that could be sewn in a contrast color with an added hemline panel. While this does have those additional princess seams, it is not a complex dress to sew.

So choose among these 6 shift dresses to find the style and degree of difficulty that you want. This could become your 'go to' dress pattern!


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