Tag Archives: sewing pattern history

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

A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, by Joy Spanabel Emery

Book cover image from Bloomsbury Publishing site. Please do not copy.

Book cover image from Bloomsbury Publishing site. Please do not copy.

I’ve been looking forward to this book, A History of the Paper Pattern Industry, ever since I corresponded with its author, Joy Spanabel Emery, about the Commercial Pattern Archives Site at University of Rhode Island.  Her book  about the history of sewing patterns is now available from its publisher, Bloomsbury, or from Amazon or Abe Books. You can read reviews and summaries on their sites: Bloomsbury Publishing , AbeBooks.com , or at Amazon. I just found out that it is currently available in paperback for $35 or less, or in hardback. 272 pages; 125 colour illustrations and  75 black & white illustrations. Reviews mention that there are also scale reproductions of 9 patterns included for those who wish to enlarge them and make the garments.

Joy Emery is Professor Emerita of Theatre and the Curator of The Commercial Pattern Archive at the University of Rhode Island, USA.  She is also the author of Stage Costume Techniques.

Publisher’s description of  A History of the Paper Pattern Industry:

“This accessible book explores this history, outlining innovations in patternmaking by the companies who produced patterns and how these reflected the fashions and demands of the market. Showcasing beautiful illustrations from original pattern pamphlets, packets and ads, as well as 9 complete patterns from which readers can reproduce vintage garments of different eras, the book provides a unique visual guide to homemade fashions as well as essential exploration of the industry that produced them. ”

Chapters include:

Chapter 1 Tailoring and the Birth of the Published Paper Pattern

Chapter 2 Development of Dressmaking Patterns

Chapter 3 Nineteenth Century Technology

Chapter 4 Early History of Pattern Companies 1860s-1880s

Chapter 5 New Markets and Expansion 1880s-1900

Chapter 6 Shifts and Balances 1900-1920s

Chapter 7 Blossoming Economy 1920-1929

Chapter 8 Surviving the Great Depression 1930s

Chapter 9 The War Years 1940s

Chapter 10 Shifting Trends 1960s

Chapter 11 New Challenges 1960s-1980s

Chapter 12 Reinvention and Renaissance 1980s-2010

9 Pattern Grids 1854-1968

Endnotes, Bibliography, Index

The Commercial Pattern Archive collection, of which Joy Spanabel Emery is curator, has over 56,000 commercial sewing patterns, and is available to the public for research (by appointment.) The enormous CoPA database can be searched online. For full access, you can subscribe for a modest fee (which is used to pay the students who work scanning and entering new patterns into the database). Or you can sample the database for free if you click on Sample. EDITED 10/31/18: CoPA membership is now free. The “Sample” page is gone, since you can use the entire site just by logging in.  It is also now possible to search for a particular pattern number if you want to date it or see the layout, etc.

 

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Filed under A Costumers' Bookshelf, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns