Tag Archives: Metropolitan Museum Costume Collection

Early 1900’s Evening Coat Pattern

McCall coat pattern 5035, early 1900's.

McCall evening coat pattern 5035, early 1900’s. It was precut at the factory from unprinted tissue paper. “All seams, outlet allowances, basting  and sewing lines are indicated by long perforations.”

When I took a close look at this pattern for an evening coat, which dates to 1908 or later, I gained a new respect for home stitchers and dressmakers of my grandmothers’ era. I’m horrified by what this pattern does not mention or include. (Linings? Interfacing? Hems? Detailed instructions….?)

Here are all the sewing instructions from the back of the envelope:

All the sewing instructions are printed on the back of the envelope.

The only sewing instructions are these, printed on the back of the envelope. Cutting instructions are shown later in this post.

When Butterick and other companies began to include an instruction sheet early in the 20th century — they were called by many names, such as Butterick’s “Deltor” or McCall’s “Printo Gravure” — home sewing became a lot easier.

Butterick "Pattern and Deltor"3981, early 1920's. You can see a bit of the printed Deltor peeking out of the envelope back.

Butterick “Pattern and Deltor” 3981, early 1920’s. You can see a bit of the printed Deltor instruction sheet peeking out of the envelope back.

This McCall coat pattern from 1928 was printed with cutting and stitching lines, and included the Printo Gravure instruction sheet.

McCall coat pattern 4912 dated 1928. Someone has coated the envelope with clear plastic to keep it from crumbling.

McCall coat pattern 4912 dated 1928. Someone has coated the envelope with clear plastic to keep it from crumbling.

McCall pattern and Printo Gravure, #4912, dated 1928.

McCall pattern and Printo Gravure, #4912, dated 1928.

With earlier patterns, the only instructions you got were the ones that fit on the outside of the envelope which the unprinted pattern came in. It was not usually a very big envelope, either, so the print was hard to read.

Pictorial Review blouse pattern #9186, late 1910's or early 1920's. The envelope was narrower than a modern pattern envelope.

Pictorial Review blouse pattern #9186, late 1910’s or early 1920’s. The envelope was narrower than a modern pattern envelope, perhaps 5 inches wide.

On this early 1900’s – 1910’s McCall evening coat pattern, all the instructions supplied for cutting and sewing don’t even fill the back of the envelope.

Front and back of envelope, McCall pattern 5035.

Front and back of envelope, McCall pattern 5035. No other instructions inside.

Unprinted patterns were usually perforated (as if by a hole punch), so the pieces — pre-cut at the factory — were marked A, B, C, or II, III, IV, (or B and F, like this one) with a series of small punchholes. But the wise dressmaker immediately marked the front of each piece with a pencil to prevent accidentally using them wrong side up.
This pattern did not assign one letter per piece, but just marked them B (back,) C (collar) or F (front.) The small piece marked F is the sleeve front; the small piece marked B is the sleeve back.

mc c 5035 cutting layout

Just as modern patterns offer variations (View A, View B, etc.,) this pattern can be cut in different styles.

McCall evening Wrap pattern No. 5035, 1908 or later.

McCall Evening Wrap pattern No. 5035, process patented in 1908, but this pattern may be later.

Cutting instructions for different views. McCall 5035.

Cutting instructions for different views. McCall 5035.

However, when you look closely at the front illustrations, there appears to be a pattern piece not included. The wrap version of the coat has a lapel, but the illustration shows that a seam is needed to extend the Center Front. There’s no pattern piece illustrated or mentioned. [Correction 9/5/2015: There is no piece missing — problem solved by Brooke. We’re seeing the underside of the collar– see comments below.]

McCall 5035. It's not easy to reconcile the illustration on the front and the one on the back or the envelope.

McCall 5035. It’s not easy to reconcile the illustrations on the front with the ones on the back of the envelope.

The seam connecting the sleeve to the coat is not illustrated, either. There is no mention of a lining, but the coat could not look like this without one.

The dressmaker who used this pattern had to know a lot more than a stitcher needs to know today.

Count Your Blessings . . . .

Modern patterns tell us not only the yardage needed for the garment but also the yardage for linings and interfacing, plus notions like zippers and shoulderpads, and suggested fabrics. We’re used to illustrations of each step, not merely verbal instructions. As a beginning stitcher, I would have been completely bewildered when I found that the collar piece didn’t line up with the coat front. I wouldn’t have realized that the coat needed a lining or facings (not included or mentioned.) And surely the version with a collar could use interfacing. Looking back, I realize that I learned a lot about sewing from following illustrated pattern instructions.

So, three cheers for Ebenezer Butterick — often credited with the pattern instruction sheet as we know it today — and all the companies who perfected the printed pattern. You can read more about vintage patterns in this article by Lizzie Bramlett for Collector’s Weekly (click here.)

See More Evening Wraps circa 1910:

These evening wraps from the same era are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum:

Evening coat by Doucet, 1910. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum.

Evening coat by Doucet, 1910. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum.

Evening coat by Paul Poiret, 1912. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum.

Evening coat by Paul Poiret, 1912. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum. The McCall pattern calls for similar frog closings.

You can see more evening wraps at Every Little Counts (click here)

[All pattern images courtesy of RememberedSummers, an Ebay seller.]

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Vintage patterns

Lanvin Couture in Two Versions for Two Clients, 1924-25.

Two dresses, House of Lanvin, Paris, 1924-1925. From the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum, NY.

Two dresses, House of Lanvin, Paris, 1924-1925. From the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum, NY.

I’m sorry that these two dresses are not on exhibit now; they really opened my eyes when I saw them several years ago, side by side like this, and I would love to know more.

They surprised me because, although I knew that couturiers make adjustments for private clients, this seems to be an illuminating example of how much a designer is willing to tinker with a design to suit individual customers. It’s possible that one of these gowns with the Lanvin label was altered at a later date [the Met doesn’t say], but the difference in the sleeves, for example, seems to be original to me. The Met hasn’t supplied much information, but click here to see the image at a larger size, and here to see the label.

Sleeve detail. Original photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Sleeve detail. Original photo [lightened to show detail] courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

For a long time, most of the women who could afford couture were “women of a certain age,” so it’s not surprising that, for example, a dress shown on the runway with a completely see-through bodice — or open to the waist — may have a layer of concealing, flesh colored lining added for private clients.

What I love about these two dresses is the way that one has been modified for a smaller, and possibly younger, client.

Two bodices, Lanvin 1924-25. Metropolitan Museum.

Two bodices, Lanvin 1924-25. Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

The sheer fabric in the neckline (cut lower and gathered, on the left dress), the length of the bodice, and the shape and decoration of the sleeves, are all adjusted to flatter two different clients. Because the dress on the left is for a shorter woman, the appliqued trim has been carefully rescaled to fit. (Imagine the dress on the right, cut at same the waist length as the left one. The waist seam would be almost touching the trim. Because they aren’t perfectly side by side, it’s hard to be sure, but the dress on the right curves in at the natural waist and then curves out toward the hip.) The dress on the left seems to be made for a more girlish body.

Skirt differences, two Lanvin dresses from 1924-25. Collection of Metropolitan Museum.

Skirt differences, two Lanvin dresses from 1924-25. Collection of Metropolitan Museum.

Look at the trim on the skirts. This is not a case of simply shortening the black part around the hem. The scale has been adjusted; where the bodice is shorter, the light colored part of the skirt is longer, to compensate, and the whole dress remains beautifully proportioned.

Two dresses from Lanvin, 1924-25; Metropolitan Museum Costume Collection.

Two dresses from Lanvin, 1924-25; Metropolitan Museum Costume Collection.

Lanvin’s “robes de style” — with these dropped, but semi-fitted waists and full skirts, unlike most 1920’s couture — were often aimed at a younger client or a debutante.

Lillian Gish in a Robe de Style, Delineator magazine, Spring of 1925.

Lillian Gish in a Robe de Style [designer not named]Delineator magazine, Spring of 1925. Photographed by Kenneth Alexander.

“The immemorial symbol of growing up is to put up your hair. So the debutante is letting her hair grow to her shoulders, waving it softly and dressing it in a tiny roll at the nape of the neck.”

Click to see an earlier example of a “Robe de Style” by Lanvin, 1922.  Although this fashion could be worn by women who were long past their debuts, Butterick aimed its full-skirted 1920’s patterns at young women and teens.

“For the young girl Paris suggests . . . .” Fashion report, Butterick’s Delineator magazine, Feb. 1924.

This dress (below), which has floral trim and a contrast hem like the Lanvin gowns, comes from a Paris design house called “orange.”

Center: a gown suitable for the

Center: a Paris gown suitable for the “fille d’honneur” at a wedding, designed by “orange.” Delineator, Feb. 1925.

“A frock that would be altogether charming for the “fille d’honnneur” of a wedding-procession begins and ends with a yoke and band of green chiffon. The frock itself is of white mousseline de soie garlanded with pink and green embroidered roses and leaves. From orange.”

Butterick offered these patterns — probably influenced by Lanvin — for Misses aged 15 to 20 in January, 1925.

Party dresses for Misses (age 15 to 20), Butterick patterns Nos. 5755, 5714, 5743. Delineator, Jan. 1925.

Party dresses for Misses (age 15 to 20), Butterick patterns Nos. 5755, 5714, 5743. Delineator, Jan. 1925.

However, this “robe de style” — designed by Jeanne Lanvin — for 1926 is definitely sophisticated:

Robe de Style, Lanvin, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum/

Robe de Style, Jeanne Lanvin, 1926. Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

I wonder if some clients asked for the “nude” triangle filling in the very low bodice to be higher — or lower, or not there at all.

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Filed under 1920s, Vintage Couture Designs, Vintage Garments: The Real Thing, Vintage patterns

Striped Prints, Spring 1938

Companion -Butterick patters Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Companion -Butterick patterns Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

The dress on the right, Companion-Butterick pattern 7733, is both a floral print and a stripe. What’s more, it’s a horizontal stripe. Not just the fabric, but the high waist and the draped V top reminded me of something familiar:

My mother with her mother, 1938.

My mother with her mother, 1938.  The woman on the left is in her 30s; the older woman is in her 60s.

Of course, it’s not exactly the same dress, but it’s very similar. The photograph is dated 1938, and I happen to have several Butterick Fashion News flyers from 1938.  Large scale prints were becoming popular in women’s dresses, under the influence of Elsa Schiaparelli. This Schiaparelli blouse, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, has a floral/horizontal striped print, too.

Schiaparelli print evening blouse, Metropolitan Museum. Winter 1938-1939.

Schiaparelli print evening blouse, Metropolitan Museum. Winter 1938-1939.

It has some elements in common with the dark fabric on the dress shown by Butterick, #7733.

Companion -Butterick patters Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Companion-Butterick patterns Nos. 7734 and 7733, March 1938 Butterick Fashion News flyer.

Companion-Butterick pattern 7733 (right):  “A soft, simple dress just right for the new striped prints. Junior Miss sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 38 [inches bust measurement.]

Companion-Butterick pattern 7734 (left):  “A tiny lace frill on a new scalloped neckline. Junior Miss sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 38 [inches bust measurement.]

Another horizontally striped floral print is used for Companion-Butterick 7745, below. “Peasant influence, laced bodice, puffed sleeves, square neck. Sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 40 [inches bust measurement.]

Companion -Butterick pattern No. 7745, Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Companion -Butterick pattern No. 7745, Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

“Tyrolean” fashions were popular until World War II broke out. Lantz of Salzburg dresses — very popular with young women in the 1950s  — were known for these floral stripes. (Now, those floral stripes — used lengthwise — are associated with flannel nightgowns.)

Companion-Butterick patterns 7781 (seated) and 7791, Butterick Fashion News , April 1938.

Companion-Butterick patterns 7781 (seated) and 7791, Butterick Fashion News , April 1938.

The dress on the left  looks youthful, but the pattern goes to size 42″.

Companion-Butterick No. 7781 (left):  “The neckline outlined with flowers is fresh. Size 36 takes 3 1/2 yards rayon crepe 39. Sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 42 [inches bust measurement.]

Companion-Butterick No. 7791 (right):  “A peasant dress in bayadere print. Junior Miss sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 38 [inches bust measurement.]” The Design Fabric Glossary defines “bayadere” as “brightly coloured stripes in a horizontal format characterized by strong effects of colour. A Bayadere is an Indian dancing girl, trained from birth.”

Although this dress does not technically have striped print fabric, the floral pattern is distributed in chevrons, rather than randomly:

March 1938 cover of Butterick Fashion News, featuring Butterick pattern No. 7757.

March 1938 cover of Butterick Fashion News, featuring Butterick pattern No. 7757.

Butterick 7757:  “One of the new prints in a dress with softly shirred bodice.  Sizes 12 to 20; [women’s sizes] 30 to 42 [inches bust measurement.]

This dress, whose top is made of striped print fabric, appeared in Woman’s Home Companion in November of 1937:

Companion-Butterick pattern 7626. Woman's Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Companion-Butterick pattern 7626. Woman’s Home Companion, Nov. 1936.

Strong colors and stripes were certainly used by Schiaparelli in this blouse from 1936:

Schiaparelli blouse, summer of 1936; Metropolitan Museum collection.

Schiaparelli blouse, summer of 1936; Metropolitan Museum collection.

(It could have been worn in the 1980s — or now — but it dates to 1936.)

The woman who couldn’t afford to make a new, print dress could add a print halter top over a solid dress, as in this Butterick accessory pattern (No. 7792), which included “collars and cuffs, gilets and sashes to make a small wardrobe seem extensive:”

Butterick "Quick Change" accessory pattern 7792, Butterick Fashion News April 1938.

Butterick “Quick Change” accessory pattern 7792, Butterick Fashion News, April 1938.

Taking a closer look at my mother’s dress from 1938, I can see that the pattern in the fabric is not actually floral; it is more like a negative pattern made by using lace to bleach out a solid color.

Close up of print dress, 1938.

Close up of print dress, 1938.

I can also see that there is a little white chemisette filling in the neckline.

Daughter and mother, 1938.

Daughter and mother, 1938.

Note:  Pictures from the Metropolitan Museum should not be copied from a blog and posted elsewhere — The Met graciously allows their use for writing about fashion history. If you want to use them, please get them from the Met’s Online Collection site, and credit the Museum.

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Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Companion-Butterick Patterns, vintage photographs

Vionnet Did It Before Paco Rabanne: The Disc Dress

Madeleine Vionnet is a designer who never fails to surprise me. Here, from the Spring of 1929, is one of her dresses for young women:

Vionnet dress trimmed with discs, 1929 .Sketches from Paris, The Delineator, April 1929, page 40.

Vionnet dress trimmed with discs, 1929 . Sketches from Paris, The Delineator, April 1929, page 40.

The title of the article is “Paris Keeps Evening Necks High and Hems Low for the Young Girl.”

The two dresses at top are by Vionnet; at bottoms, left to right, are gowns by Worth, Lucien Lelong, and Lanvin. April 1929. The Delineator.

The two dresses at top are by Vionnet; at bottom, left to right, are gowns by Worth, Lucien Lelong, and Lanvin. April 1929. The Delineator.

In the 1960s, Paco Rabanne became famous for his “Disc Dresses” — dresses made of plastic discs held together with metal rings. This one, dated 1965, is in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum:

Paco Rabanne Disac Dress, 1965; Photograph from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Paco Rabanne Disc Dress, 1965; Photograph from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

Detail of disc dress construction, Paco Rabanne, 1965. Metropolitan Museum photo.

Detail of disc dress construction, Paco Rabanne, 1965. Metropolitan Museum photo.

For a better view of the Paco Rabanne photographs, visit the Metropolitan Museum’s online collection. Click here. The 1960s disc dress was usually worn over a bodystocking. It was made for dancing. It wasn’t made for comfort — nor quiet.

It looks like Vionnet attached her large, overlapping discs to a chiffon underlayer:

Skirt of Vionnet disc dress, 1929.

Skirt of Vionnet disc dress, 1929.

“Madeleine Vionnet uses rose chiffon over white satin for a winsome model with skirt of overlapping discs and scarf.”

I’m not saying Rabanne even knew about this Vionnet design. I’m just saying that, when it comes to using big discs on evening wear, Vionnet got there first.

The wittiest, and best known,  later variation on the disc dress has to be the one costume designer Lizzy Gardiner wore while accepting her Academy Award for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 1995. It was made of hundreds of gold American Express Credit cards linked together in the style of the 1960s disc dresses.

I wonder if anyone has made a “disk dress” by wiring together old floppy disks.  Probably.

There is another Paco Rabanne disc dress (1967) in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, but the site may take a while to load. Click here.

 

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Filed under 1920s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Couture Designs