My copy of the McCall Needlework store catalog for December 1946 shows many delightful patterns for hats and handbags. I’ve already described three patterns from the 1946 catalog that were successful enough to still be included in a store catalog at the end of 1950.
When dating styles from sewing patterns, it’s good to be reminded that it takes a while for a new style to gain acceptance, so that pattern companies continue to feature some patterns over a span of several years. The following group of patterns debuted between 1944 and 1946, and were out of print by November of 1950 (the latest McCall Needlework catalog I happen to have.)
This, No. 1115, is the oldest hat pattern from the 1946 catalog — originally issued in 1944. It has been dated by the Commercial Pattern Archive.
McCall 1115, Pattern for Hat and Handbag
View (B), a beret worn tilted far forward on the head, has a pretty extension at the back in place of the more common 1940’s band. The purse has straps which act as a drawstring, passing through sewn-on metal rings.
The close-fitting cap (A) is described as a calot, meaning a close-fitting hat without a brim. It was more commonly called a “Juliet cap.” (See pattern 1293, below.) There are many illustrations of modern royalty wearing “calots” at the Royal Hats blog. In the 1920’s a hat type called a callotte was also brimless, but not close to the scalp. See a twenties version here.
McCall 1193, Hat Patterns
Frankly, View (A) looks to me to be too small for the model. The caved-in crown is a bit of a surprise — but handy as a base for a bowl of fruit… :). Version (B) evokes 1930’s hats like this one from 1936. From the rear, View (C) suggests a matador’s hat.
“Turban A has a bias-fold crown. . . marvelous in stripes, and plain, too. The widow’s peak hat B and the beret-type C are soft hats, too. C is machine stitched and trimmed with ribbon bows. All are snug-fitting hats.”
“They can be worn with high or low hair-dos.” But, obviously, the extreme pompadour hair styles of the early 1940’s are not going to work with these hats.
There are more views on the pattern envelope at CoPA.
McCall 1200 Hats and a Bag for Very Young Women
The round bag is a perennial style. Ridiculously small hats worn very far forward were a chic forties’ style.
“The Eton cap (B) and the brim hat (C) are tops for young casuals, especially when matched up with suits or dresses.”
McCall 1228, Hats and Bags
“Wonderfully smart dressmaker hats with bags to match. So easy to run up! Nothing but stitching and a self-bow on the hats. Companion bags in two styles carry out the stitching trim. Both styles have loop handles and are finished with slide fasteners [zippers.] One is a large carry-all, the other a small, compact model.” The blue bag is a “large carry-all” by 1945 standards, but not today! There are additional views on the pattern envelope. If you love to enter the zen state of decorative machine stitching, these really could be fun to make….
McCall 1252, Flat Hat Patterns circa 1945
“Making hat news, these four clever models are designed to open out for washing or cleaning. A — modified peach basket, ties together. B — Coolie type, snaps to position at top and brim. C — a drawstring beret. D — pouchy turban that snaps to crown…. No blocking required.” Like No. 1228, Versions A and B are stiffened with extensive machine top stitching.
[Sidenote: the word “coolie” — often applied to Asian workers who did hard manual labor like building the Transcontinental Railroad, digging canals, and toting heavy loads — comes from two Chinese words meaning “bitter” (ku,) and “strength” (li.) It describes a person whose strength is “bitter” because it condemns one to a life of hard labor. This is not a word to use casually, although many people did not consider it offensive in 1946. “Ku” can also mean an agricultural worker. ]
Hat designer Agnes had already experimented with hats that can be unzipped or un-snapped and folded flat for packing, back in 1937.
McCall 1293, Patterns for a Beaded Halter Top, a Vestee, a Juliet Cap and a Handbag
The pattern envelope shows a second way to decorate the vestee.
“For festive occasions sew sequins on a vestee, Juliet cap, purse.” It was a Victorian custom that Juliet’s stage costumes often included a small, head-hugging cap made of pearls — not authentic to Renaissance Italy nor Shakespeare’s England, but pretty. (Click here for silent screen star Lillian Gish wearing one.) The sideless vestee would be worn over a slip and under an open suit jacket (which you couldn’t take off in public, of course.) This glittering vestee might go with you to the office in your handbag, and be exchanged for your workday blouse in the ladies’ room at 5 p.m., turning your business suit into a cocktail or date outfit.
McCall 1298, Pattern for Hat and Bag
The back of that enormous beret is quite impressive, with an interesting top stitching pattern “for style and firmness.”
“The trim spectator sports hat with clever visor brim A, the popular big beret B, are easy to wear, simple to make.” [Just remember to duck when approaching a doorway.] Outsized berets and tams had been popular during World War I, too. Click here for an image from 1917, or here for a brief history of Tam-o’-Shanters and the difference between a tam, a toque, and a beret. And here is Joan Crawford wearing a big, dome-like hat, in 194o.