Dresses from Remnants, World War II

“Remnants on Your Budget,”October 1943, Butterick Fashion News flyer. Pattern #2718.

With war-time fabric regulations and eventual fabric rationing, women who sewed were trying to make do, cannibalizing old garments to create more up-to-date styles. Butterick responded to their needs with a series of suggestions on how they could combine fabric remnants using specific Butterick patterns. Some new fashions also helped, like a fad for dresses made with two different materials, or for suits that no longer needed matching jackets and skirts.

“Something New from Something Old,” Butterick Fashion News flyer, September 1943. Yoke and sleeve pattern #2304.

The dress below, from Saks or Neiman-Marcus, combined a dotted fabric with a solid one, like the Butterick illustration above.

Enka Rayon dress available from Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman-Marcus, or Meier & Frank. Vogue, Aug. 15. 1943.

Enka Rayon dress available from Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman-Marcus, or Meier & Frank. Vogue, Aug. 15. 1943.

It cost $35.00, a lot of money in 1943.

Butterick 2304 was a pattern for just the spotted sleeves, collar, and yoke of this “remnant” dress.

Butterick pattern 2304, Sept 1943 Butterick Fashion News.

Butterick pattern #2304, Sept 1943 Butterick Fashion News.

The body of the dress was one you might already have in your closet; Butterick gave instructions for removing the existing sleeves and collar and replacing them with just one and one eighth yards of 39 inch fabric.

BFN sept 1943 bk cvr 500 text btm wartime color block pattern reuse277

BFN sept 1943 bk cvr text  follow 500

information from bottom of page, Butterick Fashion Flyer, Sept. 1943.

Information from bottom of page, Butterick Fashion Flyer, Sept. 1943.

“Stop, look, and consider just how you can salvage that discarded dress for another season or two. . . . Next time you’re at the remnant counter of your favorite store, look for a fabric to combine with your original dress. This bit of salvage magic will give you a completely new one. . . . This transformation of your tired frock will do such wonderful things for your budget as well as aiding in the vital program of fabric conservation.”

Click here for a great illustration of a refashioned dress in this article about clothes rationing — and the usefulness of printed feedsacks — from the Lebanon County Historical Society.

Butterick 2718

Information from the back cover of Butterick Fashion News, October 1943.

Information from the back cover of Butterick Fashion News, October 1943. “Slim two-piece dress” pattern #2718.

Because it lacks the interior structure of a suit, this is called a two piece dress, but it has a jacket-like bodice and a separate skirt.

“Remnants used adroitly are invaluable in balancing a budget; invaluable in aiding the all-out wartime effort of fabric conservation. . . . we suggest Butterick 2718, a slim two-piece dress . . . . Plan it in contrast . . . . . . In this was you can have a really individual dress . . . a dress that saves fabric . . . a dress that saves your budget from the doldrums!”

The skirt takes less than 2 yards of 39″ fabric, and the top uses only 1 3/8 yards — so the chance of finding both pieces on the remnant table were pretty good.

Butterick 2746

Butterick suit pattern #2746, Oct. 1943 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Butterick suit pattern #2746, Oct. 1943 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Pattern information for #2746, October 1943. Butterick.

Pattern information for #2746, October 1943. Butterick.

The skirt from either pattern could also be combined with jacket-like blouses — sometimes with a peplum — like these:

Peplum blouse patterns from Butterick, Dec. 1942.

Peplum blouse patterns from Butterick, Dec. 1942. From left, 2301 version A, 2301 version B, 2302 version B.

Butterick 2747

Butterick also offered this “shirtwaist dress,” (left, below) which looks like two pieces but isn’t. The waist is very similar to a blouse and skirt combination sold at I. Magnin. (right)

Burrerick dress pattern 2747 (left) and an outfit from I. Magnin, right. Both from Fall of 1943.

Butterick dress pattern #2747 (left) and an outfit from I. Magnin, right. Both from Fall of 1943.

Pattern information for Butterick #2747, Oct. 1943.

Pattern information for Butterick #2747, Oct. 1943.

The coral rayon top (also available in aqua) and the black velveteen skirt from I. Magnin (a very upscale store) came in junior sizes 9 to 15, and cost $35.00. The ad reminds careful shoppers that they could be worn separately.

Details copied from the I. Magnin ad in Vogue, Aug. 15, 1943.

Details copied from the I. Magnin ad in Vogue, Aug. 15, 1943.

I haven’t checked the Ladies’ Home Journal for 1943, but that magazine constantly suggested ways to remake dresses during World War I. The World War II slogan “Make Do and Mend”  was observed by all levels of society in England and the U.S.

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5 Comments

Filed under 1940s-1950s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, World War I

5 responses to “Dresses from Remnants, World War II

  1. I love that “jacket like blouse” on the right above. How helpful that Butterick offered specific patterns to illustrate their ideas.

  2. World War II fashion must be one of the few instances where being more generous with how much fabric you use to make them really doesn’t make them look better – quite the opposite in fact!

  3. You have written a wonderful post here. As a baby boomer, I was raised by women who lived with this way of thinking, and even long after the War, throughout the 1960’s I was taught to re-make clothes and save every bit of fabric to re-use later. I think that after living through the Great Depression and the War, that generation kept a frugal point of view for the rest of their lives.

    • Thanks. I, too, was raised by people who lived through the great depression, and I wore 60’s skirts remade from old suits with “wool that was still good.” I’m still using a dish towel my grandmother made from bleached flour sacks.She embroidered the border in red cross-stitch. Maybe that training is why I’m uncomfortable with all the modern products that are made to go into the landfill after one use — things like one-cup coffee packets, and “one use” toilet brushes and disposable dust mops.

  4. Pingback: Going Up: Rising Hemlines, Border Prints, and Tunics, 1924-1925 | witness2fashion

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