Category Archives: Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Cloth Bonnets for Sun or Indoors

A vintage sunbonnet, which shows signs of wear.

I know next to nothing about millinery. However, a recent conversation with Linda Rahner about sunbonnets reminded me that I photographed several from a collection that has since been sold. The same collection had Victorian cloth bonnets which may have been made to be worn alone indoors, or under a hat, and it seems logical that their construction would inspire the cloth bonnets used for sun protection. So here are a few sunbonnets and — perhaps — some of their antecedents.
[Tip: If you ever try to search for sunbonnets online, be sure to limit your search by adding “-sue -baby.” Otherwise, Sunbonnet Sue quilts will dominate your results…. ]

This American photo from the late twenties or early 1930’s shows a woman, on the left, wearing a sunbonnet; on the right, her daughter wears trousers.

It's the 1930s. The woman on far right is wearing trousers. Her mother, far left, wears a sunbonnet.

Trying to date vintage sunbonnets must be a nightmare, because sunbonnets are still being made and sold. The needs of re-enactors, docents at historic sites, and participants in local history days have resulted in many commercial patterns for sunbonnets.

I’m pretty sure this one is “the real thing,”  because it is almost worn out.

A threadbare sunbonnet in grayish brown cloth. Its brim is stiffened with padding and diagonal machine quilting and sticks out quite a way to shade the face.

A close up of the worn sunbonnet. Some white selvedge shows in the ruffle.

Back of the worn brownish sunbonnet. The neck cover is not very long. I have no idea about its date except that it’s machine stitched.

This checked gingham sunbonnet is in very good condition — which makes me wonder if it was really worn for working outdoors.

This sunbonnet is made from striking fabric, so perhaps a reader can identify when it was probably made. It does appear to have been worn more than once. It is stiffened with padding and parallel rows of stitches.

Even this blurred photo shows that it would give the back of your neck good protection.

The rickrack trim on this blue sunbonnet makes me think it may be from the 1930’s — but other opinions are welcome!

This crisp sunbonnet is made of blue chambray and trimmed with rickrack. Perhaps it was a gift — “too good to wear” for yardwork.

Little girls continued to wear variations on sunbonnets in the 1940s.

My friend’s collection also included some white bonnets, definitely vintage, which I am utterly unqualified to date. However, some have long back flaps (like sunbonnets;) some have been stiffened with parallel rows of cording or quilting; and the basic coif shape goes back a long, long way. If you recognize the period for any of these, feel free to share your knowledge:

The simplest white bonnet or house cap:

One piece of fabric forms the front; another is gathered into a back. The stripes are woven into the cloth. The seam between the front and back is piped.

The front has a single ruffle trimmed with lace framing the face.

A closer view of the lace and fabric. Is it machine lace?  The ruffle is actually pleated into place rather than gathered.

Here’s a close up of the fabric — badly mended in one spot:

The fabric looks like linen to me. A hole was badly mended.

There is a drawstring in the back casing (and a French seam.)

Like the front, the back is trimmed with a single ruffle.

A more complex cap or bonnet looks similar from the front:

The front of this bonnet or cap is very simple . . .

But from the side, it’s another story:

Parallel rows of cording stiffen this cap. It also has a long flap in back, pleated rather than gathered.

A closer view of the cording.

The cording appears to be hand stitched.

I just discovered that a similar bonnet was illustrated in Godey’s Lady’s Magazine in 1857.

Is a cap like that one the ancestor of those sunbonnets?

This one — perhaps a house cap? — is too elaborate for farm work:

Definitely meant to be seen, this bonnet has ruffles and cording everywhere — even running down its back.

The be-ruffled bonnet seen from the front. If it was intended to be starched, what a nightmare to iron!

This is the ruffled bonnet seen from the rear. It has a long neck flap, too.

For all I know, one or more of those is really a night-cap….

It’s not quite fair to judge this last masterpiece (and it is one!) without starch, but, since starch attracts insects, it was washed thoroughly before being put into storage. Try to imagine the hand-embroidered lace freshly ironed and standing crisply away from the face:

A front view. The ties are very long.

A closer look at the hand-embroidered cutwork lace.

The same hat viewed from above; in addition to the long ties that go under the chin, there are ties ending in a bow on top.

A close up of the quilting which stiffens the brim.

A very chic cap or bonnet in profile — I’ll go out on a limb and say “probably late 1830s.”

The voluminous crown suggests that it was made to be worn over a hairstyle like this one:

Fashion plate from La Mode, Sept. 1838. The Casey Collection.

Back view of a tulle bonnet trimmed with marabou, The Lady’s Magazine, Feb. 1837. Casey Collection.

An assortment of bonnets from World of Fashion, Nov. 1838. Casey Collection.

An earlier cloth bonnet or coif can be seen in The Bonnet Maker, Costumes d’ouvrieres parisiennes, by Galatine, 1824. (Zoom in to see the details of her embroidered bonnet, and the corded bonnets in her hand.)

I no longer own my Godey’s  or Harper’s fashion plate anthologies, so I present all these photos for the enjoyment of those who do. Happy hunting.

P.S. If you have never visited the Casey Collection of Fashion Plates, there’s a link in my “Sites with Great Information” sidebar.

 

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Filed under 1800s-1830s, 1830s -1860s fashions, 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1900s to 1920s, 1930s, Early Victorian fashions, Hairstyles, Hats, Hats, Mid-Victorian fashions, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Mystery Dresses

This vintage dress has been altered and patched. It raises many questions.

The patches on this faded dress hint at a life of hardship. If I had photographed the back, dating it might be possible — but a poor woman might not have had access to current fashions. It’s a mystery to me.

Many collectors are interested in the beauty of vintage dresses. But the woman who collected these dresses saw them as windows into women’s lives. Sadly, neither dress had documentation, so we don’t know anything about the women who made them, wore them, patched them, and tried to make them last a few more months or years. I’m sharing them because such dresses rarely survive to be collected — they end in the rag bag, not a museum. I don’t have the expertise even to date them securely (and how I wish I had had time to take more pictures!) Comments and conjectures about them are very welcome.

A mystery dress circa 1930?

Back of red dotted dress with a puzzling insert at the waist.

Here’s the front again:

Is this a late twenties dress, lengthened as much as possible for the 1930s? Or is it a thirties dress, lengthened and altered for a new wearer?

It is very long, suggesting early 1930s. There’s no fading to mark a previously shorter hem line, but this hem is as skimpy as possible. Was it a hand-me-down from a shorter woman?

A tiny rolled hem.

This dress was home-made, and not by a very accomplished seamstress. Here’s the sheer collar:

The rolled hem on this collar is machine stitched, but quite uneven.

Maintaining even tension around the curve of a soft, sheer material isn’t easy.

Someone who worked on this dress didn’t cut perfectly on grain, so the skirt sags towards its right side. You can see that the vertical pattern of dots on the front of the dress lined up originally. Was there always a waist seam? It doesn’t look like it.

The slightest sag at the waist seam (the dots don’t line up evenly) affects the hang of the skirt. Did this happen originally, or when the wide piece was inserted? Was the front of this dress one piece from shoulder to hem before it was altered?

The pattern of dots isn’t straight because the skirt is off grain at the waist.

There are seams in the back of the dress:

Vertical back seams suggest that the dress always had a waist seam in back — or do they? I’m asking….

Again, this pattern matching is not the work of an experienced dressmaker. On the other hand, I once bought cheap  printed flannel plaid for a nightgown and discovered that it was printed off grain, so it was possible to make perfectly matched seams on one side but not on the other. Maybe it was hard to fold this material for cutting and make the dots line up.

Aside from the question of why this dress has a wide band inserted at the waist, it’s clear that the person doing the alterations had barely enough material for the band — not enough to match the dots and line them up inconspicuously. In fact, the stripes on the dress run vertically and those on the band run horizontally. It’s made from scraps.

Scraps were also needed for alterations to the armholes. Either they tore while the dress was being worn, or they had to be enlarged for a different wearer:

On each side, the armhole was made larger and a patch was placed underneath. The repairs to the sheer ruffle are not symmetrical. Did one side tear?

Presumably there wasn’t enough fabric to match the pattern — or the person making the alternations wasn’t skilled enough to try (these are very large patches, secured with another line of large hand stitches.

I’m not belittling the people who made and altered this dress. I’m suggesting that they did not have the luxury of perfectionism. They had to make do with what they had, and I think that whoever owned this dress, new or second-hand, had to wear it and hold her head high. Poverty limits choices.

Another mystery dress, probably 19th century (?)

The front of a long dress with fitted bodice and many patches.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this dress is that the patches accumulated over time. It appears to be patched with scraps of the original fabric, but the dress, the large patch, and the smaller patch are not faded equally. The fabric is lightweight, so the cream colored bodice lining contributes to the impression of fading there, but not on the sleeves.

How I wish I had had a mannequin available, and the time to photograph the back and the interior structure. The back seams would tell us something about the date when it was made. The waist seems to be cartridge pleated, but, again, I have no photo of the construction. The shoulders don’t look dropped, but it’s hard to tell on a big, padded coat hanger!

The neckline is crudely done, using fabric that matches the band on the skirt.

The hem is very worn, and the fabric at the shoulders is faded and worn through in one place.

It is possible to see two bust darts on the left side of the bodice (on its right, they are hidden by a patch.)

You can see characteristic Victorian bust darts which are not covered by the dark patch.

But the dress is a mystery as to date, especially because, if it was made and worn by a rural woman, she could have been using a much older dress as her only guide. Machine stitched or hand stitched? Or both? I don’t know.

Someone may recognize the fabric, or be able to date the dress from old photographs — for me, it’s a nagging mystery — and I wish I knew about the woman who wore it. To me, the dress says that she was strong and brave while enduring years of hardship.

 

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Filed under 1860s -1870s fashions, 1870s to 1900s fashions, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Dresses, Late Victorian fashions, Musings, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Butterick Hats and Dresses for May, 1933

Butterick hat pattern 5126, Delineator May 1933, page 70. The version at the bottom has complex self trim passing through two rings or buckles.  The others have rows of decorative top-stitching.

Description of Butterick hat pattern 5126, from 1933.

Although pattern companies still sell hat patterns, it’s always a pleasant surprise to find traces of a vintage hat pattern. Butterick hat pattern 5126 was featured on the same page as five outfits for May of 1933. The fashion for matching your jacket lining to your hat would be easy if you made your hat yourself — or had your dressmaker do it.

Butterick patterns from Delineator, May 1933. Page 70. Butterick 5105, 5108, 5109, 5107.

Butterick 5105 is shown with a contrasting top; Butterick 5108 has a wide-shouldered weskit. 1933.

Butterick 5105 and 5108 have the very long skirts of 1933.

The coat of Butterick 5109 is shown in three-quarters length; Butterick 5107 uses the same fabric for the blouse, belt and hat.

Butterick coat 5109 over a skirt and blouse ensemble; right, Butterick dress and jacket ensemble 5107. Delineator May 1933, p. 70.

An alternate view shows coat 5109 at full length; the full-sleeved matching underdress is shown with a light bodice and dark skirt to match the coat.

Butterick coat and dress ensemble 5109; Butterick suit 5107. Delineator May 1933, p. 70. No. 5107 is cut with very wide shoulders, and the jacket is lined with a plaid fabric that shows when the scarf-neck is tied. The fullness of the sleeves taken in with tucks and top-stitching. The hat matches the jacket lining.

The fashion editors of 1933 noted the emphasis on wider shoulders, which was attributed to Schiaparelli’s influence. As the year progressed, shoulders became wider and sleeve caps became puffier in an attempt to make hips look narrow by contrast. (The shoulder pads and long skirts of the 1980’s had the same purpose.)

Butterick pattern 5088, from May, 1933. Delineator magazine, p. 70.

The “lingerie boa” and sleeves with a full cap, credited to Schiaparelli. Delineator, May 1933, p. 70. Her pointy hat also shows Schiaparelli influence.

Although patterns for bust sizes 33 through 44 inches were standard for Butterick in the 1920’s, these five patterns go no bigger than a 40 inch bust.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Vintage Accessories

Filet Crochet Lace 1917

Filet lace on a camisole, Delineator, April 1917. The same yoke could be used on a nightgown.

A vintage nightgown with a filet lace yoke. Modern blue and red ribbon was inserted, but the original ribbon insertion was probably white or pastel colored. The nightie is white, not pink. (I’m learning to use a new computer….)

There seems to have been a fashion for lingerie trimmed with this crocheted lace during the First World War era.  “Filet lace” is often recognizable by characteristic grid patterns, although quite complex shapes, such as butterflies and flowers, can be created. I know nothing about crochet and very little about lace, but I’ll post these images for those who do have an interest, especially since it may help to date vintage items.

Filet lace crochet. Top, a collar; left, a camisole; and lower right, an underwear bag decorated with swimming ducks. Delineator, June 1917.

A camisole trimmed with a basket of flowers. Filet lace, Delineator, December 1917.

Nightgowns might have a simple crochet lace yoke or a crocheted yoke that includes sleeves. Butterick patterns 8140 and 8552 from Delineator, August 1917.

Below, a different version of Butterick nightgown pattern 8552:

Filet lace trims a nightgown and a combination, Delineator, February 1917.

This vintage nightgown has a simple (see-through) yoke, but the gown is trimmed with patterned crochet lace.

Collars and blouses were also a popular place to display crochet lace:

Lace collars pictured in Delineator, September 1917.

Filet lace collar, Delineator, March 1917. [Note her “Spanish” hair comb.]

This blouse from a Bedell catalog ad has filet pattern lace, including inset medallions: Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1917.

An apron trimmed with filet lace, Ladies’ Home Journal, August 1917. This fancy item was suggested as something that could be sold at a charity bazaar.

“Even the baby wears filet.”

A baby cap in filet crochet from a page of needlework projects. Ads for needlework supplies often ran alongside these articles. Delineator, March 1917.

Lace-trimmed jabots were also popular circa 1917.

A filet-trimmed jabot that could be worn with different outfits may have been popular with women who were not quite used to wearing the new V-neck fashions. Delineator, Sept. 1917

Geometric, grid-based filet lace was not limited to the nineteen-teens; this spectacular display decorates the front and back of a slip that shows 1920’s styling.

This slip, circa 1920-1925, has a large amount of filet lace both front and back. It has 1920’s style hip accents, and its length indicates early twenties. The original silk ribbon inserted in the shoulder straps and top of the yoke has a floral pattern woven into it.

It’s possible that the large piece of lace is machine made, but the straps are crocheted.

Filet lace was often pictured along with other forms of lingerie lace trim.

Lingerie lace featured in Delineator, August 1917. Readers could write for the instructions.

Lingerie and insertion lace featured in Delineator, February 1917.

P.S. Happy holidays to all!

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, lingerie, lingerie and underwear, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Slips and Petticoats, Underthings, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

Vintage Fur and Feather Update with Useful Links

Ad for Albrecht fur coats, Delineator, Nov. 1917.

Just because a fur coat is 100 years old does not necessarily mean that you can sell it without a permit. And you need to know your bird species if you are selling vintage hats. In fact, you need to know your animal products, from feathers to ivory to crocodile to tortoiseshell, snakes — and more.

I have updated my recent post about a Vintage Store that was raided by California and U.S. Federal agencies last year. The owner is currently facing prosecution. After posting, I found a useful factsheet from the U.S. government. Click here: it is a two page pdf that can be printed and posted for reference.

If you sell or collect vintage clothing, you may not realize that “antique” or vintage status does not exempt all furs, feathers, and other animal products from regulation. Some vintage items made from listed animals can be sold if you have a permit. But for some items made from endangered species, there are no permits and very limited exceptions.

“Some wildlife laws prohibit all sale or purchase of products made from a protected species. Examples include the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (which protects more than 1,000 wild birds native to the United States) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.” — U.S Fish and Wildlife Service “Can I Sell It?” Factsheet.

Here is what the “Can I Sell It?” factsheet says about feathers from endangered and threatened species:

“Taxidermied migratory birds or migratory bird feathers and parts: With some limited exceptions, sale of any type prohibited regardless of age of the specimen. (Exceptions involve limited purchase and sale of certain captive-reared and sport-taken migratory waterfowl.)
Examples: Victorian songbird collections, vintage women’s hats, and feather boas. [My boldface]
Of course, you have to be able to recognize which feathers and furs are on the endangered or threatened list (a very long list, called CITES Appendix 1). Identifying them on vintage clothing is complicated by the very old practice of altering fur and feathers from common domestic species to resemble rare or exotic species. Is that a bald eagle feather [“Sale prohibited regardless of age”]  or a turkey feather that has been doctored to look like one? Could that vintage “jaguar skin” coat really be jaguar [prohibited,] or is it rabbit fur cleverly dyed?
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service says,
“For us to answer your questions accurately, you must be able to tell us the species involved, including the scientific name, if possible.” — “Can I Sell It?” Factsheet.
 What kind of “wolf” fur is this? Hint: It’s probably not Manchurian, and definitely not wolf. More like Rin Tin Tin.

Manchurian Wolf Dyed Dog Fur trimmed coat from Sears, 1931.

At least it’s not a member of an endangered Canis Lupus (i.e., wolf) family….

My mother, around 1945. Was she literally “putting on the dog?” (That expression — meaning “dressing to make a display of wealth” — dates to the 19th century.)

Another passage from the “Can I Sell It?” factsheet:

“Grizzly bear, jaguar, or other U.S. species listed as endangered or threatened: No interstate or international sale of any type regardless of age, without a permit. Sale within a State allowed unless prohibited under State law. Examples: Taxidermied specimens, rugs, clothing, and other fur articles.
Sometimes a permit is needed to sell products made from protected species. Trade is regulated by state, federal, and international agencies — so you need to check with all that apply.  Investigators from both the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted the raid on Cicely Ann Hansen’s vintage clothing store.
If only it were possible to ask “The Bird on Nellie’s Hat” what species it is!
Women's hats with feathers, Delineator, Nov. 1917.

Women’s hats with feathers, Delineator, Nov. 1917. The mania for egret feathers on hats eventually led to the formation of the Audubon Society, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Read about it here.

In 1905, George Bernard Shaw complained to the management of an opera house about having to sit behind women who wore dead birds on their hats. To read his entertaining letter, click here.

Some Useful Links About Threatened and Endangered Species

Here is an endangered and threatened species list from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s alphabetized by Latin names, but the common names are also given.
Birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act include several kinds of egrets; a full endangered and protected birds list can be found by clicking here (common English and scientific names are given.)
Click here for an overview of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) program. Unfortunately, the CITES appendices are in scientific classification format, so look up the scientific name for your problematic animal before visiting CITES. For example, search “Latin name for gray wolf” and you will find it is Canis Lupus. Then you will be able to find out if the animal is on an endangered species list.
But first, before you think of buying or selling, you need to identify what the garment or object is made of. The Vintage Fashion Guild Fur Resource can help you identify furs, crocodile, alligator, etc. The listings will expand if you click on the {…} symbol. Then, checking if you need a permit to sell your garment is up to you.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, 1930s, 1930s-1940s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Hats, Late Victorian fashions, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing

A One-Trunk Vacation Wardrobe Designed in Paris, March 1927

Delineato magazine cover, March 1927. Illustration by Helen Dryden.

Delineator magazine cover, March 1927. Illustration by Helen Dryden.

By February or March, those who could afford to take a break from winter weather — and those who just wanted to daydream about doing it — could read about resort wear.
In a two page spread, Delineator assured readers that all these authorized copies of French designer fashions would fit into just one trunk.

Informal coat by Paquin, Delineator. March 1927, p. 18.

Informal coat by Paquin, Delineator. March 1927, p. 18. The mole collar is dyed green to match the cloth coat; the hat is by Reboux.

text-1927-mar-p-18-10-till-tea-informality-paquin-coat-goupy-sweater-lelong-bathing-suit-and-cover-btm-text

Sporty day outfits combine a sweater and pleated skirt. Delineator, March 1927.

Sporty day outfits combine a skirt and lacy sweater, left,  or a printed silk “jumper” and coordinating skirt by Goupy, right. Delineator, March 1927. These imported fashions could be purchased in New York stores.

A bathing suit and beach robe by Lelong. Delineator, March 1927.

A bathing suit and beach robe by Lelong. Delineator, March 1927. The ingeniously cut wrap reverses from jersey to toweling. The bathing suit is cut low in back to produce a tan the same shape as an equally low cut evening dress.

For more about the fad for suntans in the 1920’s, click here. For more about composé colors, click here.

text-1927-mar-p-19-formality-teatime-designer-berthe-coat-dress-ensemble-text

A more formal dress and matching coat ensemble designed by Berthe are worn in the late afternoon. Delineator, March 1927.

A more formal afternoon dress and matching coat ensemble designed by Berthe are worn in the late afternoon. Delineator, March 1927. The matching mauve coat is 7/8 length. The straw hat by Agnes (left) “has the new front-peak silhouette.”

The somewhat similar draped hat on the magazine’s cover, illustrated by Helen Dryden, shows a “peak” that is pinned up, away from the face.

A rose colored outfit is accented with emeral jewelry in this stylized image by Helen Dryden. March 1927.

A rose colored outfit (or is it mauve?) is accented with emerald jewelry in this stylized image by Helen Dryden. March 1927.

A gold lame evening wrap by Vionnet is show with a "bolero" dress by Chanel. Delineator, March 1927, p. 19.

A gold lamé evening wrap by Vionnet, “striped with silver” and trimmed with gold fox fur, is shown with a “bolero” dress by Chanel in white Georgette trimmed with jewels and silver. Delineator, March 1927. page 19.

An evening dress made of lace. Delineator, March 1927.

An evening dress made of lace. “Rose silk lines the fur bows.” The tiers of the skirt “extend all the way to the shoulder in back.” Delineator, March 1927. No designer was named.

The Chanel evening dress was imported by Lord and Taylor; the other French afternoon and evening clothes were available from John Wanamaker.

Fashion Illustrator Myrtle Lages

The illustrations from pages 18 and 19 are by Myrtle Lages. Here are some Lages signatures, which usually appeared subtly at a lower corner of the image. I had to enhance some of these to improve legibility.

Lages (Myrtle Lages) worked as a fashion illustrator for Delineator, which often used one illustrator for an entire article. Lages usually squeezed her signature modestly into the lower corner of one illustration (probably magazine policy.)

Lages (Myrtle Lages) worked as a fashion illustrator for Delineator, which often used one illustrator for most of the pattern illustrations in an issue. Lages usually squeezed her signature modestly into the lower corner of one illustration (probably magazine policy.) Delineator magazine was owned by Butterick.

Lages’ signature varied between the faint and stylized vertical one, giving last name only, to the carefully written full name, as in September 1933. When Delineator switched to black and white line illustrations plus one color, Lages had no problem adjusting her style.

Butterick patterns 1419 and 1417, illustrated in red, black and white by Delineator, May 1927.

Butterick patterns 1419 and 1417, illustrated in red, black and white by Lages for Delineator, May 1927.

Lages pattern illustration, Delineator, August 1927. Butterick 1555, 1589, 1573, 1384.

Myrtle Lages pattern illustrations, Delineator, August 1927. Butterick 1555, 1589, 1573, 1384.

According to her obituary, Myrtle Lages (married name Whitehill) worked as an illustrator for Butterick for more than forty years. A graduate of Parsons School of Design, she died in 1994, aged 98.

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Filed under 1920s, Bathing Suits, Hats, lingerie and underwear, Swimsuits, Vintage Couture Designs

Simple, Glitzy Tops from the 1940s

A variety of McCall patterns from the 1940's showed glittering trim on simple tops.

A variety of McCall patterns from the 1940’s showed glittering trim on simple tops.

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.

McCall 1192 had an attractive back, too. The cap shoulders are a style that returns periodically.

McCall 1192 had a decorated back, too. The cap shoulders are a style that returns periodically. “Just two pieces to this blouse.”

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.

How to stitch sequins or do a decorative embroidery stitch. McCall 1192.

How to stitch sequins or do a decorative embroidery stitch. McCall 1192.

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.

Description of McCall 1192.

Description of McCall 1192. Embroidery transfers came in blue, for visibility on most light colors, or yellow, for use on dark colors.

McCall pattern 1283, from a 1946 catalog. The blouse is simple, but the sequin trim is glamorous.

McCall pattern 1283, from 1946. The blouse is simple, but the sequin trim is glamorous. Making a long skirt in matching fabric would give you an “evening gown” that could be varied with other tops.

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.]

McCall 1283, circa 1946. A handbag pattern was included.

McCall 1283, circa 1946. A handbag pattern was included. “For daytime wear, trim with fine rickrack and wear under suit jackets. One of the ‘musts’ for that special weekend or vacation and so easy to pack.”

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.

Vintage black dress with black sequin trim, 1940s. (It photographed navy, but it was black.)

Vintage black dress with black sequin trim, 1940s. (It photographed navy.)

500-v175-dress-front

A short forties’ party dress trimmed with green sequins and cream-colored seed beads. [A black petticoat visible near the hem is not part of the dress.]

Detail: a spray of flowers made from sequins on a vintage dress.

Detail: a spray of flowers made from sequins and beads on a vintage dress.

Black vintage dress with a sunburst of beads.

Black vintage dress with a “necklace” and sunburst of sequins.

Another late forties detail:  This blouse has beading around the neckline, suggesting a necklace.

McCall transfer No. 1408 used beading to transform a very simple blouse into a sparkling one. You wouldn't need to carry jewelry if you packed a blouse like this.

McCall transfer No. 1408 used beading to transform a very simple blouse into a sparkling one. You wouldn’t need to carry  jewelry on vacation if you packed a blouse like this.

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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.

More neckline beading designs from McCall. Pattern 1491.

More neckline beading designs from McCall. Pattern 1491.

A bow on your shoulder of a "brooch" could also trim your dress or suit jacket. McCall 1491.

A bow on your shoulder or a beaded “brooch” could also trim your dress or suit jacket. McCall 1491.

More beading patterns for blouses, dresses and suits. McCall pattern 1314.

More beading patterns for blouses, dresses and suits. McCall pattern 1314. (From 1947.)

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.

A square beading pattern like this would be subtle in black beads on a black suit jacket. Variations could be used on the neckline of a wool dress or the collar of a suit jacket. McCall 1314.

A square beading pattern like this would be subtle in black beads on a black suit jacket. Variations could be used on the neckline of a wool dress or the collar of a suit jacket. McCall 1314.

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.

McCall 1404: simple linger sleeved blouses embellished with rays of sequins at the neck.

McCall 1404: simple longer-sleeved blouses embellished with glittering rays at the neck. Late forties.

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McCall 1293 for a vestee, a timeless halter top, a hat and a bag.

McCall 1293 included a vestee, a timeless halter top, a hat and a bag. Dated 1946.

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?

McCall 1293.

McCall 1293 included this Juliet cap and evening bag. This cap would not work over high forties’ hairstyles, but was perfect over a close-to-the-head fifties’ cut.

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….

McCall transfer pattern 1339 supplied 5 inch high initials to work in sequins or embroidery thread.

McCall transfer pattern 1339 supplied 5 inch high initials to work in sequins or embroidery thread. (1947) Swing, anyone?

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.

This vintage dress has a solid rayon crepe bodice, a floral printed crepe skirt, and one motif -- a tulip -- from the skirt fabric appliqued to the bodice. A few sequins on that tulip would be fine.

This vintage dress has a solid rayon crepe bodice, a floral printed crepe skirt, and one motif — a tulip — from the skirt fabric appliqued to the bodice. A few sequins on that tulip would be fine.

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!

 

 

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