Category Archives: Vintage patterns

1920s’ Hat Patterns Online at CoPA

Inspiration for your cloche hat trim: McCall 1372 from 1924 at CoPA.

The Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPA) at URI has hat patterns, which makes it a good place for milliners to look for inspiration. McCall 1372 is one of the patterns that doesn’t have an image of the pattern pieces, but you could apply these trim ideas to a purchased hat.

As usual, this hat pattern included more than one style. Notice the simple pleated ribbon cockades on the red hat. Are the centers filled with beads or lace or French knots? Your choice.

If you want to read the suggested fabrics or other details, just log in to the C0mmercial Pattern Archive and search for McCall 1372. (Be sure to chose “any” in the final “collection” category.) Using CoPA is free!

Many of CoPA’s hat patterns do show the original pattern piece shapes.

McCall 1603 shows two different cloche hats.

I used to think cloche hats had to be made by starting with a felt shape, but 1920s’ sewing patterns allowed women to make a cloche without having to own equipment to steam and block the felt.

The black hat on the left has a very simple pattern:

Three pattern pieces plus a ribbon trim. McCall 1603, View 1.

Cloche hats made from 4 to 6 gores were common patterns. This one has an intriguing zigzag in the brim. McCall 1603, view 2. It looks like the darker brown “brim” is just a piece of ribbon tucked under the hat!

One version of Butterick 1800 (view A) looks like a 4 gored hat from the top but really uses an easy one-piece side-and-crown combined.

Notice that the lining is very simple, and does not have to echo the shape of the hat. The same lining is used for variation B of Butterick 1800:

Butterick 1800, version B. A hat from just two pattern pieces!

An experienced milliner would know to add lining and an interior ribbon band in the right size for the head measurement.

McCall used full-color pattern illustrations on their envelopes, which makes them a joy to find. McCall 1604, dated 1927.

Version 1 only shows two gores, but I’m guessing the instructions said “cut two” of each….

It looks to me like there are two front gores and two gores in back, with a seam creating a ridge across the top.

Pattern pieces for two versions of McCall cloche hat No. 1604. The front and back crown shapes are subtly different.

Version 2 is really simple: a circular top, a crown with tall, curved sides that are crushed into folds, and a quirky shaped brim which folds down over one cheek. You could sew on a pair of jeweled buttons if you don’t have a Cartier cliquet pin.

Hats began shrinking in the 1930s; in the “I would never have figured that out!” department, here is a preview of McCall No. 69, a hat pattern from 1932.

McCall hat pattern 69 uses pattern shapes I would never have thought of by myself. Visit CoPA to see this one!

Version C of McCall 69. The pattern, which looks like it is exploding, uses just one, bizarre, piece plus a ribbon headband.

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Filed under 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Hats and Millinery, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns

Christmas Dolls, 1924

A young teen with a boudoir doll, December 1924. You could buy a pattern for the girl’s dress or a pattern for her “French doll’s” dress from Butterick.

Thanksgiving signals the last chance to start making Christmas presents.

Half of page 28, from Delineator magazine, December 1924.

Butterick offered plenty of patterns for making dolls and doll clothes in Delineator magazine’s November and December issues.

Butterick French Doll pattern 10296 on a page of dresses for misses aged 15 to 20. December 1924.

It may seem odd that doll patterns were so prominent with illustrations of patterns for girls 8 to 15 and “misses 15 to 20,” but Boudoir dolls were popular with grown women, too — my Aunt Dot still had one decorating her bedroom in the 1980s.

My Aunt Dot with a friend, about 1919.

You could buy the heads for home-made boudoir dolls separately, and just make the doll’s body and clothing. I was surprised to see that the “French doll” pattern also included a Pierrot costume:

Butterick pattern 1026 in the Pierrot variation. 1924.

This exact pattern showed up for sale, so we know that it could be made with four different looks:

Doll pattern 10296, one version.

Doll pattern 10296 in a version with long, sheer sleeves.

Butterick

Butterick French Doll pattern 10296 in a third “French” costume.

Pierrot is also a French character…. Doll pattern 1026 in its fourth view.

So many doll patterns were illustrated on one page of the December issue that I have to divide them into more than one blog post. I couldn’t find the pattern description for doll 10296, but I did find one for this set of stuffed animal dolls:

Butterick doll pattern 10302, Delineator, December 1924.

The faces are embroidered onto the fabric of your choice.

Butterick 10302; Delineator, December 1924.

“Old Dog Tray” was the “ever-faithful” hero of a song by Stephen Foster; Peter Rabbit was the star of many Beatrix Potter stories. [Her Peter Rabbit wore a blue coat, so I guess the red vest on No. 10302 was easier to make and an attempt to avoid copyright infringement…. I was the kind of child who would have been silently disappointed that he didn’t look right.] It’s also confusing to me that the “Ugly Duckling” is a full grown duck, not a swan, while the fuzzy yellow chick gives new meaning to “Chicken Little.” (In my little 1940-ish book, Henny Penny was illustrated as an adult hen wearing a bonnet and shawl, but this earlier illustration sides with Butterick.)

Oh, Dear:  time for me to think about the dreaded Christmas shopping….

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Accessory Patterns, Children's Vintage styles, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs

Versatile Butterick Patterns from February 1912

These “dresses” are really made from separate bodice and skirt patterns.

This “evening gown” is also made from a waist pattern and a skirt pattern.

Butterick waist 5188 and skirt 5189 made a lovely evening gown or a chic day dress, depending on your fabric choices. Delineator, Feb. 1912.

In 1912 you could buy “dress” patterns, but Butterick still sold many separate “waist ” and skirt patterns — a combination that allowed for enormous variety and individualization. These eight patterns featured in Delineator magazine in February 1912 show how you could make a day and evening wardrobe from just a couple of waist (bodice) and skirt patterns.

To start with the evening look:

Butterick waist pattern 5188, made in soft, sheer fabrics and embroidered or beaded.

Back view of waist 5188 with knot embroidery (or beading) and an optional high collar for formal daytime occasions.

The high-collared chemisette was optional (as was the body lining). “Sleeves are in full or shorter length, and with or without the cuffs.” Above, the collar is a sheer fabric, but other soft, drape-y fabrics (even wool) could be used.

Two back views of Butterick waist 5188.

Three variations of Butterick waist 5188 with skirt 5189.  At right, it has a “clearing length” skirt, one of three possible lengths.

The variation on the right uses the chemisette and long sleeves (probably attached to the body lining,) but is made of a fabric appropriate for daytime, like linen or wool serge.  Buttons add interest to the “day” look, and the soft collar is omitted entirely.

Evening, day, and afternoon looks from one waist pattern, Butterick 5188.

The same skirt, Butterick 5189, in sheer evening and solid daytime variations. (The evening coat covers part of the skirt.)

These two patterns were clearly meant as a set and could be made as one garment; but not all Butterick waist and skirt combinations close in the same place!

Left: Waist 5196 is more blouse-like and could be worn with different skirts. Right: Waist 5180 has a side closing like its accompanying skirt.

Alternate views of waist 5196. Optional CF seam, optional body lining (to control the fullness,) optional long sleeves and optional peplum as seen in the color illustration.

Skirt 5197 is softly pleated, and could be worn with other waists.

Right: waist 5180 with skirt 5181. The side closing exposes an underskirt.

Waist 5180 could be plain, as in the color illustration, or enhanced with embroidery or soutache braid. Buttons could be visible or the closing could be concealed. Long or 3/4 sleeves were another variation.

It’s possible to attach a skirt like this to the bodice with hooks and bars, but most women probably sewed the waist to the skirt, at least part of the way around. The side-front closing would make it hard to use the bodice with other skirts, although the skirt could be combined with other waists.

Butterick waist 5176 and skirt 5177. 1912.

Alternate views of waist 5176 with skirt 5177.

Waist 5176 and skirt 5177 are another set of patterns that could be made in day, afternoon, or evening versions. The long “sash” or back panel is an optional part of the bodice. Bordered fabrics are recommended for the skirt.

Detail of skirt 5177. For evening, you could stop at the second tier and let an underskirt show. The back-closing skirt “may be made separately or attached to a waist in semi-princess style….

This skirt description offers many fabric and construction options, and also suggests that other waists can be used with it, allowing for even more variety.

Waist 5176 could have a high-necked chemisette, or a lower, round neckline, as in the color illustration, or bare the throat entirely as in the evening version at the right.

Here waist 5176 has a “French round neck.” You can see how easily this waist might be adapted for evening by omitting the fill at neckline and using sheer fabric or lace for the “frill sleeves” and bertha collar.

Waist 5176 in day and evening versions.

Tricks of the Trade

Seeing all these variations should give hope to the overworked costumer: you could dress an entire chorus with variations on three or four bodice patterns and three or four skirt patterns. Fabric and trim variations will multiply the looks without having to draft a new pattern for every costume. In fact, character recognition would be aided by deciding that sophisticated Mme X always wears dresses with assymmetric side front closings, sporty Mlle Y always wears sailor collar variations, and gentle Mlle Z favors lace and soft fabrics. If you do one “waist” pattern fitting and one skirt pattern fitting per actress, and design three costumes for each that are variations on those patterns, you might get 15 costumes from five first fittings…. Hours and hours saved!

P.S. 1912 was the year the Titanic sank; Shaw wrote Pygmalion in 1912. The best production of Love’s Labour’s Lost I ever saw was set in 1914 (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1993, directed by Ian Judge with costume designs by Deirdre Clancy.)

Under These 1912 Clothes:

American Lady Corset ad; corset cover/petticoat for mature lady. Both: Delineator, February 1912.

Brassieres, Delineator, February 1912.

Corset cover and drawers, Delineator, February 1912.

Combination corset cover and drawers; narrow petticoat. Delineator, February 1912.

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Sleeves with a Flare: 1930

Sleeves which end in a flare: Butterick patterns from February 1930. Delineator.

Left: bare arms covered by a sheer Bertha collar; Center: bare arms covered by a sheer jacket whose sleeves have a double flare or flounce. Right: bare arms for evening. Butterick patterns in Delineator, April 1930.

1930 was a good year for capelets, Berthas, and other soft, sheer, flowing covers for the arm.

Butterick sleeve pattern 3075, February 1930.

Short sleeves (above the elbow) were also appearing on dressy dresses (and even on dinner dresses.) A sort of combination of the two styles was the new fitted sleeve with a flounce or “flare.” I first noticed these “medieval” sleeves:

The very long, slit flare on these sleeves was “medieval.” Butterick 3265 from Delineator, June, 1930.

Click here for some real medieval sleeves. Was Charles Addams remembering these dresses when he drew Morticia Addams?

Butterick 3534, from Delineator, December 1930. Another example of a flounce or flare with a slit in it.

A side note: notice how many of these 1930 evening dresses have a long, sheer skirt over a shorter, opaque lining.

Three evening gowns with sleeve interest. Butterick 3052, 3044, and 3054 from February 1930.

Digression: The one on the right is not chiffon but a coarse net mesh, and would deserve a closer look even without its above-the-elbow, tied sleeves (definitely a 1930 style.)

Sleeves that tie above the elbow “are entirely new;” sheer skirt over a shorter opaque layer. Butterick “dinner frock” 3054, February 1930.

The flared sleeve, which is my real topic, was included in pattern 3075 — it offered several sleeve styles for updating or individualizing other patterns:

Butterick sleeve pattern 3075, Delineator, February 1930, p. 31

Butterick sleeve pattern 3075, Delineator, February 1930, page 30. This illustration included the tied sleeve seen on No. 3054.

Right, the flared sleeve again. Afternoon dresses, Butterick 3215 and 3202, May 1930.

Here is the flared sleeve on a dress for “madame,” i.e., an older women. (She holds her lorgnette in her hand.)

Butterick 3128, an afternoon dress for older or larger ladies.

(This alternate view shows a tied sleeve instead.)

I inherited this collapsible lorgnette with leather case and long chain, like the one worn in the illustration above.

Left, a dress with removable sheer cape; right, Butterick 3289 has a tied bolero top with long, flounced sleeves.

Both dresses have a shorter, opaque under layer with a longer sheer layer on top.

Detail of the 1930 bolero top, Butterick 3289.

I was lucky to find pattern 3269 at the Commercial Pattern Archive. (CoPA), so we can see the pattern pieces.

Pattern envelope for Butterick 3289.

Right: pattern shapes for sleeve and flare  3289.

In that case, the flare is a circle or oval with a round opening in the center.

I was glad to see that these sleeves were not limited to Butterick styles. Here is a very similar dress and jacket pattern from Ladies’ Home Journal:

Another evening dress with optional flounced-sleeve jacket. LHJ pattern 6483, 1930.

The pattern shapes for the sleeve and sleeve flare. This flare (10) is made very differently.

Another — different — sleeve flare:

A third way to achieve the “flare” sleeve. This one hangs open at the back.

Another flare was seen on this McCall pattern from 1931:

McCall pattern 6617 from 1931.

A short sleeve with a frill (top) and a long sleeve with a surprising shape. McCall 6617.

Also from 1931 is this set of sleeves:

Nine sleeve shapes from 1931. Butterick 3698.

A variety of ways to create a flared sleeve.

And, for real inspiration, here is a couture dress by Ardanse, very sheer from neckline to upper arm, where the lace fabric of the dress creates full, slit sleeves with a big, circular flare; they seem to defy gravity.

Couture by Ardanse, left, and Lelong, right. Delineator, May 1930.

Wow.

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Filed under 1920s-1930s, 1930s, Capes, Tricks of the Costumer's Trade, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Troubadour Sleeves, 1926-1927

Butterick patterns from Delineator, December 1926.

The illustration on the left is from an article on dress alterations. Click here to see it. These sleeves were a Butterick fashion in late 1926 and early 1927. (I haven’t found any sold by Sears….) Sometimes called “troubadour” sleeves, they were known by other names — “dolman” or bat-wing or “deep armhole” sleeves, too.

Troubadour sleeves. Butterick blouse pattern 1174, from December 1926.

Left, “deep sleeve” Butterick 1154; Right, “deep armhole” Butterick 1167. Both from December 1926 Delineator.

“Fashion Outlines of 1927:” left is dolman-sleeved Butterick 1216. January 1927.

Butterick 1121, a youthful fashion, was described as having “bat-wing” sleeves. November 1926, Delineator.

Butterick 1124, “bat-wing” deep sleeves. November 1926.

Whatever it was called, Butterick was definitely pushing this fashion in 1926-27, although I’m not sure how successful the push was.

The heroine in this story illustration by John F. Crosman wears a dolman/troubadour/deep-armhole dress. December 1926, Delineator.

Butterick 1120 has troubadour sleeves; this dress uses contrast sleeves of metallic fabric.

Butterick 1110 illustrated in November 1926. Satin crepe dress with red and silver metallic sleeves.

French couture: a coat of “medieval cut” by Lucien Lelong. Sketched for Delineator, December 1926.

Butterick’s version of a dolman sleeved  evening coat: pattern 1086 from November 1926.

I wonder if this dress style didn’t really catch on because you would need a new coat like this one if you made dresses with the new “troubadour/dolman/bat-wing” sleeves, which wouldn’t fit under a normal coat sleeve.

“Deep armhole coat” Butterick 1158; Delineator , November 1926. Not all troubadour sleeves would fit under a coat like this, much less a normal coat.

The slim lines of the late twenties included close-fitting sleeves in both 1926 and 1927.

Butterick deep armhole coat 1158, January 1927. [It’s not very deep!] The blouse at right has very close, long sleeves which would fit under any coat.

More typical Butterick dress and coat patterns, from December 1927, have close fitting sleeves and high armholes, even the raglan sleeve at right.

Delineator suggested that Vionnet solved the sleeve problem with this evening wrap:

Worth evening dress and Vionnet evening cape. Delineator, April 1927. A cape would accommodate any sleeve — or no sleeves.

A not-very-thorough search hasn’t found Troubadour sleeves elsewhere, in spite of all these examples from Butterick’s Delineator magazine. Sears did carry a lot of “Troubadour red” items in 1926. I found only one dolman sleeved dress pattern for 1926 at the Commercial Pattern Archive. It was a Butterick pattern.

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Wide, Sheer Sleeves: A Fashion from 1922

Nearly rectangular sheer lace sleeves with deep armholes. Butterick 3510, from January 1922.

While collecting images of 1922 tunic blouses, I noticed a parallel trend toward very wide sleeves — sometimes rectangular, sometimes funnel-shaped.

Butterick 3510 from February 1922, Delineator.

French designer fashion: wide, funnel sleeves on a gown from Molyneux, Photographed by O’Doye for Delineator, January 1922.

Sometimes they appeared on dresses that suggested the tabard worn by medieval knights.

A sheer under layer with a tabard-like opaque layer on top. Butterick 3508 illustrated in February 1922.

Butterick dress 3508, Delineator, January 1922.

Butterick patterns for teens, February 1922.

Often the sleeves of 1922 were made of sheer fabrics like lace or chiffon.

Dress for teens, Butterick 3474 from January 1922.

This inspiration for these patterns came from Paris couture.

Left: wide, sheer sleeves on a dress by Drecoll. Sketched for Delineator by Soulie, January 1922.

The Paris house of Madeleine et Madeleine showed this dress with sheer, rectangular sleeves that close tightly at the wrist.

Some have armholes that reach almost to the waist:

Butterick dress 3601 from March, 1922.

This Butterick pattern (3393) from December of 1921 cited French designer Jenny as its inspiration. Google image from Hathitrust.org.

Butterick Blouse 3532 from Delineator, February 1922.

Very wide, deep sleeves on Butterick 3406, 1922.

Those were very deep armholes, like pattern 3510:

A closer look at Butterick 3510. “Butterfly-wing sleeves.”

These sleeves were sometimes attached to a slip-like lining, rather than to the dress itself.

Sheer sleeves could also begin from a dropped shoulder:

Left, a Paris designer dress from the House of Beer; right, the same sleeves on a Butterick sewing pattern. 1922.

Butterick 3479 with sheer sleeves. January 1922.

Of course, a very wide sleeve requires a coat to match:

Butterick dress 3465 with coat 3454. January 1922. The dress has a sheer lace bodice over a matching lining.

These enormous sleeves date to 1921-1922.

A dress with very full sleeves, Butterick 3841. 1922.

Funnel sleeves, 1922.

Another distinctive 1920’s sleeve, supposedly based on medieval or “Medici”costumes, was the “troubadour” sleeve, which was very wide — the armhole almost reached the waist — but which tapered to a tight fit in the lower arm and wrist.

Troubadour sleeves. Butterick blouse pattern 1174, from December 1926.

The troubadour sleeve was “a thing” in 1926. More about these sleeves in my next post.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1920s, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage patterns, Vintage Styles in Larger Sizes

Pattern Pieces for Side Drapes (“Cascades”) circa 1922

The side panels of this skirt were called “cascades.” Butterick 3601 from March, 1922; Delineator.

Cascades were created in several different ways in the Nineteen Twenties. Using the pattern archive at CoPA to better understand the options, I found a considerable variety of pattern shapes. Some cascades were basically rectangles, others were shaped, and sometimes the solution was really simple: essentially a piece of fabric wrapped around the body, with one side seam sewn several inches inside the edge of the cascade, which jutted out. (See Pattern 1408, below….)

In 1980, a Twenties’ dress with two cascades like that green one was one of my early experiments in draping.  Think of the skirt as a very big pillowslip with an opening in the top seam a few inches from each side seam. That opening is gathered and attached to the bodice at the waist.  I used a fairly light silk, so the bulk of the seam at each side wasn’t a problem. It looked fine, but this week I learned that it probably was not the way cascades were done in the early 1920s.

If I had had CoPA for research, I would have noticed that there was usually only one layer of fabric in the cascade.

Butterick 3545 has a cascade at each side.

Pattern envelope scanned from CoPA. . “LADIES’ SLIP-OVER DRESS, closed at left underarm, with Detachable Cape, Two-Piece Skirt Attached at Low Waistline, with or without long body lining.”

Detachable Cape on Butterick 3545.

Butterick 3545 pattern layout from CoPA.

The skirt pattern pieces for Butterick 3545, 1922. Notches show where the cascades would be inserted into the side seams. This construction is very simple and logical to a 21st century stitcher.

A closer view of the skirt; Butterick 3545, 1922.

In that case, the cascade was a separate pattern piece. It was also separate in this LHJ pattern, but this cascade was shaped to taper at the bottom. And it was NOT inserted in a side seam.

The full image from CoPA of LHJ pattern 3616. A triangle of dots usually means “place on fold,” but in this case it’s hard to interpret.  Notch K in the bodice front matches notch K in the skirt. The separate side panel (did it hang free?) adds to the confusion. The dress drawing does not show a center back seam.

In Ladies’ Home Journal pattern 3616, the cascade is shaped, and it has a pleat (“plait”) at the point where it is attached to the skirt waist. But the cascade does not appear to be inserted into a seam.

The right-angled point of the cascade (I called it A) hangs free, but the other side is apparently sewn to the side front of the skirt. LHJ pattern 3616.

I don’t know how the straight, raw edge of the cascade would be handled, since it doesn’t appear to be inserted in a seam, but …. (I may be misreading this one! Perhaps those five dots on the skirt are a cutting line?)

Butterick 3417, from 1921, can teach us many things.

Butterick 3417 from 1921.

Bodice, cape, and lining of Butterick 3417.

The blouson shape can be held in place by the bodice lining and the waist stay, in addition to the built-in belt we see. The cape is not just a square; the little jag at the point of attachment will affect the way the cape falls. The cascade is cut in one with the skirt front.

Skirt pieces for Butterick 3417.

This cascade is cut in one with the skirt front; the jog at the bottom allows about three inches for the skirt hem to be turned up. (The cascades apparently have a narrow hem.) The pale lavender line is my guess at the seam placement.

Butterick 3417 (1921) makes sense once you realize that the three-dot triangle means “place on fold of fabric.” I circled the small dots which mark the place where the side seams need to go. The “tube” part of the dress has a hem allowance of about 3 inches. The cascade would be narrow-hemmed, or picot hemmed, if chiffon. Yes, the back side of the fabric would be seen — no problem with georgette or reversible satin….

This Syndicate pattern, No. 1789 from 1923 has just five pieces. A seamstress would have to know about facing for the belt, which apparently buttons at one or both sides. How are the sleeves and cascades finished? How about a neck facing? Is the bodice fully lined? All up to the seamstress.

Syndicate dress 1789 from 1923.

The aerial view of this dress as it would look before the sides were sewn is very informative!

The cascades apparently hang free, outside the side seams, which probably fall vertically from the side waist And that bodice is quite intriguing. what happens when you raise your arms? Definitely wear with a slip!

Pictorial Review pattern 1408 also makes the cascade part of the skirt front:

Pictorial Review pattern 1408 from 1922. The cascade is cut in one with the skirt front.

The skirt front is seamed to the skirt back at one side (see double notches.)

There appears to be a seam line where the left side of the skirt back wraps around to the front and tucks under the cascade.

Once you match the skirt front to skirt back at one side, the entire skirt wraps around and is stitched to the front, allowing the cascade to hang free.

This beautiful 1922 dress, Ladies’ Home Journal pattern 3701, has only four pattern pieces:

LHJ pattern 3701, from 1922. (The “whole skirt” length does not seem to be to scale, since the skirt is one piece, wrapping around the body and and folding up in horizontal tucks (“plaits”) at the waist.)

I said “only four pattern pieces;” the seamstress would have to make her own bias bindings and figure out how to face the long sleeves and neckline…. (I would line the entire bodice with contrasting Chinese silk.)

Butterick 4025 makes the cascade part of its one-piece skirt.

Center, Butterick 4025, Delineator, December 1922.

Butterick 4025 pattern envelope from CoPA.

The cascade is part of the one-piece skirt. (How could the black cascade have a white reverse side, as illustrated? More dressmaker ingenuity needed….)

More often, the cascade was a separate pattern piece. In this 1923 pattern (Ladies’ Home Journal pattern 3961) the cascade on this side-closing surplice dress is cut with one curved side, for a more graceful “fall.” (“Fall, waterfall, cascade….”)

A surplice closing creates this wrap dress. Ladies’ Home Journal pattern 3961, from 1923.

Skirt pattern pieces for LHJ 3961. One-piece skirt, possibly cut on the fold at center back. (See the Three dot triangle.)

Complete pattern pieces from LHJ 3961, scanned from CoPA.

Obviously, there’s more than one way to cut a cascade. I’ve spent a lot of my life looking at old paintings and photographs and illustrations, trying to figure out how those those garments were constructed (and what the backs looked like.)  One rule of the costume shop is: “Never assume.” Knowing how modern clothes are made — what “makes sense” to us — isn’t always the key to an authentic replica. CoPA, the Commercial Pattern Archive — started by theatrical costumers — is an absolute treasure. Spread the word!

Personal experience: Around 1985, I was designer and cutter for a production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. One of my stitchers had been trained as a tailor in Germany. She was so unhappy with the way my men’s sleeves (patterned from Norah Waugh’s Cut of Men’s Clothes : 1600-1900) needed gathering at the back of the sleeve head that I revised my patterns for them several times. Two years later I visited the Costume Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where some 18th c. men’s clothing was displayed in a case that I could walk around. Finally, I could see the back seams of the coats I had been drafting! Guess what? There were visible gathers at the back of the sleeve heads. And I had gone without sleep to get rid of them in my patterns!  (P.S. That’s also why I always want to see the backs at museum exhibits! Maybe a photo? Or a mirror behind the mannequin?)

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