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1950’s Sewing Patterns – A brief history

8991jy23There is a trend today for making your own clothes, with programmes such as “The Great British Sewing Bee” encouraging would be sewers to throw caution to the wind and have a go! However this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon as sewing patterns have been in existence since the 1860’s.

In wartime Britain, women could save hard earned family money by making their own clothes. Trims were relatively inexpensive and could be used time and time again on different outfits and updated as and when required.

The main dressmaking pattern manufacturers included Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls and of course Vogue. These American companies are still in existence today. Women’s weekly magazines such as Woman’s Own all published patterns too, so pattern availability wasn’t a problem.simplicity_1655

In the 1950’s a wide range of skirt styles were on offer to make, however tops were always nipped in and fitted to optimised the desired for narrow waist.

There was also the introduction of “Easy to Make” sewing patterns and with the arrival of shift dresses towards the end of the 1950s many women ran up these patterns in no time at all as the pattern was so simple. Many different versions could be made and adapted to both winter and summer needs. Furthermore as the decade went on, new fabric and became available and better quality zips and trimmings came into existence.

vintage%20sewing%20pattern%20-%201950s%20junior%20misses%20one-piece%20dress%20and%20jacket%20simplicity%201157%20size%2011%20bust-f91435In the 1950’s one of the most coveted items for women was the Singer sewing machine. Singer began to recover from the effects of the war in which production was ceased and in 1952 introduced model 206, its first zigzag machine. These machines are quite sought after and occasionally you spot them in antique shops now for a small fortune!

Vintage patterns are particularly in demand today and there are a good choice online. Some manufacturers also now provide modern sewing patterns based on the vintage 1950’s feel. I have tried Vintage Vogue patterns and have successfully produced a lovely dress from using their V8789 1957 original dress design pattern.  At present I love the American sewing manufacturer Colette who produces some lovely retro/vintage designs, including the Ginger skirt and the Sencha blouse.  I have also made several tops from the Sorbretto 1950’s style sleeveless top pattern.

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If anyone  has tried any of these modern “vintage” patterns that has successfully worked out for them, then please let me know!

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1950’s dresses – A brief history

imagesP86OHRPGI think sometimes that I was born in the wrong era. I feel much happier in a dress with a fitted waist and a full skirt. Not necessarily over the top with a petticoat underneath (I do the school run!) but something that makes me feel feminine at least. Jeans are comfortable and practical but they don’t make me feel good about myself.

I adore the 1950’s. Everything I like and am drawn to is mainly from this era. I love the clothes, the kitsch and the home styling!

My favourite 1950s icons include Audrey Hepburn (she will be covered in a future blog), Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. Hollywood glamour became popular in Europe with these icons.  To me they look feminine, dress fashionably and smartly and actually have a womanly figure rather than looking like a stick insect!imagesTR07WJ6G

The 1950’s were all about the waistline with an emphasis on a thin waist, defined hips and a larger more defined bust. In short a more feminine silhouette than had been seen for many years. Dior’s “New Look” defined women’s wardrobes and women’s figures were given the illusion of an hourglass shape with a nipped in waist and a full skirt, adding definition to the body.

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With the end of World War II, came a feeling of freedom, especially in terms of fashion for women. No more fabric rationing and a new choice of material and patterns from which to have fun making clothes with. There was now an availability of different fabrics, especially in the USA. Excess fabric was used to create full skirts, pleats and petticoats etc. Cottons, linens and silks were still used but were expensive and difficult to find, hence the rise of the synthetic materials market, most notably nylon, polyester and acrylic. These new fabrics revolutionised fabric care, with even a quick wash and possibly no ironing required!

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I like the 1950s because even today it appears timeless. The return of full skirts, capri pants and flat ballet shoes all feature heavily in my wardrobe. Okay, I do admit that I tend to stand out in the school playground, amidst the jeans and parkers but then again I get compliments on how I look and so many people comment on my dresses and how they wish they could wear them! Well, why not? It’s the easiest thing in the world in the rush of a morning when you can’t decide what to wear to put on a dress in the summer and a dress with leggings and boots in the winter. I always remember one of Gok Wan’s fashion programmes in which he said that he never understood why so little women wore dresses as they were so easy and versatile to wear. So try wearing the 1950’s style dresses for yourself  and see if you are convinced!