There 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.
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.
In 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.