In the forties, McCall offered several patterns for simple tops which could be raised to evening wear status with sequins or beading. “Afternoon-evening” style implied a fashion that could be worn for dates when combined with your daytime business suit; a simple change of blouse and the working woman or traveler was ready for cocktails, dinner, and dancing.
No. 1192, from 1945, was still featured in the needlework catalog for May, 1950. It included an embroidery transfer and instructions for applying the sequins one at a time, although you could also purchase strands of sequins by the yard.
You could also work it in bugle beads, or in six-strand cotton embroidery thread “for a more restrained effect.” A simple chainstitch was also recommended. Most of the ornamentation would be done before before sewing the side seams.
The rows of sequins suggest necklaces. The sash seems to be attached in the back, and brought around to tie in front. [If I were making this blouse, I’d add more fabric to keep it tucked in at the waist.]
There was a time when a lady did not wear sequins in the daytime. However, late afternoon and the cocktail hour permitted a bit of sparkle.
Witness to Fashion note: The wearing of metallic fabrics, rhinestone-studded clothing, and sequins during daylight hours was only beginning to be acceptable in the early 1970’s. I remember walking to breakfast with my husband in Hollywood one morning about nine; a woman passed us wearing tight jeans, high wooden platform heels, and a strapless sequinned stretch top, called a tube top. “Was she — or wasn’t she — a prostitute?” I asked to my spouse, figuring a man might pick up signals I was missing. He looked utterly bewildered when he admitted, “I don’t know!” A few years earlier, we would have had no doubts.
Many forties’ dresses for late afternoon and evening have subtle sequin trim; some are not so subtle.
Another late forties detail: This blouse has beading around the neckline, suggesting a necklace.
Using an embroidery hoop, organza, tissue, (or modern tear-away stabilizer) to keep the fabric from stretching makes applying these trims easier.
In 1950 you could choose among several neckline beading designs: a bow, a pendant, etc.
Gold or iridescent beads were available, but many of these patterns were used very subtly, in black on black, bronze on brown, blue on blue, etc. The square pattern below would turn a simple wool crepe suit into an elegant one, if you worked it in beads or shiny thread on the pockets.
If you’re tempted to make a dressy forties’ blouse, remember how often sparkle was added to day-into-night clothing. Pick a simple style, and let the ornamentation supply the sophistication.
Picture that 1940’s halter with evening trousers or a short lace skirt; if you found it in a thrift store, would it scream “1946” to you?
A sequinned monogram on a blouse or dress was also worn by many — although I wonder whether monogrammed gifts are always appreciated by the recipient….
If you like the idea of adding sparkle, but not too much, consider an applique. I used to own several forties’ dresses which had bodice (and sometimes skirt) appliques of flowers — cut from printed material — and outlined or delicately accented with sequins. This dress does not have sequins, but a few on the appliqued tulip — clear or matching the colors — wouldn’t be out of period.
Obviously, this mannequin was too small for the dress; the flared, bias-cut skirt should hang from the natural waistline. A narrow self-belt probably accompanied this dress, but has been lost.
It’s not too late to make your forties’ style holiday party blouse or dress!